Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is proposing a tax on sugary drinks to invest $350 million into the city's neighborhood parks, recreation centers and libraries.
The 3 cent tax on sugary drink distributors is part of a broader proposal that would expand pre-kindergarten, create 25 community schools, inject $26 million into the city's pension fund and improve energy efficiency in the city's buildings. Kenney outlined his budget priorities March 3 in his first budget address to the Philadelphia City Council.
"The problem is that Big Soda charges our citizens, small businesses and distributors much, much more than what it costs for them to make the soda," Kenny said in his speech to the council. "The programs this tax will fund, like pre-k and investments in parks, libraries and rec centers, will actually help small businesses."
A number of local leaders expressed support for Kenney's proposal.
The Philadelphia Police Athletic League provides out-of-school athletic and educational programming of approximately 18,000 children in facilities across the city, including several city-owned recreation centers. Ted Qualli, civilian athletic director, Philadelphia Police Athletic League, said the organization is "excited by the prospect" of capital improvements throughout the department of parks and recreation.
"Repairing and upgrading facilities will go a long way toward leveling the playing field for all Philadelphia children, especially those in our underserved neighborhoods,” Qualli said in a statement.
Elaine Gonzalez Johnson, founder, Latinas in Motion, said in a statement: “As a mom and a community leader, I know how desperately the children in our city’s neighborhoods need high-quality pre-K to help them be ready for school and rec center programs to give them a safe place to exercise. Mayor Kenney’s proposal can make a big difference for Philly’s kids."
Opponents to Kenny's proposal also have emerged.
The American Beverage Association, which represents the non-alcoholic refreshment beverage industry, renewed its registration as a Philadelphia lobbyist on Monday, according to a Philly.com report.
"We're giving voice to the people opposed to taxes on grocery items and educating them about the proposal," American Beverage Association spokesperson, Lauren Kane, told Philly.com. "These taxes are wildly unpopular and discriminatory."
Daniel Grace, secretary, Teamsters Local 830, told Philly.com: "I'm not only representing my members, whose jobs are at stake, I'm representing low-income single mothers, welfare recipients, everybody this tax is an unfair burden on."
Kenney's proposal is not the first time a Philadelphia mayor has tried to pass a tax on sugary drinks. Former mayor Michael Nutter tried and failed twice to get the council to pass a two-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. The last failed attempt was in 2011.