When Mayor Kenney signed the bill for Philadelphia’s sugar tax to go into effect on January 1st 2017, an outrage sparked across the city. The sugar tax requires beverage distributors to pay a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on any sweetened drink they make and distribute to companies within the city. This only caused the distributors to pass the tax to the stores, who in response raised their prices to leave customers to be the only ones affected. After the majority of Philadelphians disagreed with the new tax, articles were appearing online and assisted in spreading the mixed feelings about the tax.
Philly Soda Tax: The big list of drinks that are and aren’t taxed (BillyPenn), Philadelphia residents up in arms over soda tax hit (FoxNews), and How Philly passed a tax on sugary drinks (HealthyFoodAmerica) are the titles of only a fraction of the sugar tax articles out there. And after taking a quick look at them, any reader can expect them to have a negative outlook on the tax. The article from BillyPenn suggests there are even more drinks that are taxed than most people think, Fox News infers how the citizens are shocked and protesting around the city, and Healthy Food America lead readers to believe that the article explains how the mayor was actually able to pass the bill.
Anna Orso and Mark Dent, writers for the website BillyPenn, go into extensive detail when explaining the sugar tax. They provide readers with a general understanding of what it is and the wide range of drinks it affects. The article explains that the sugar tax charges a $0.015 per ounce fee to beverage distributors. Obviously they don’t want to pay the tax so they charge the stores extra for the drinks, who then in return charge the customers more. This may not seem like much at a first glance, but if someone were to buy an 18 pack of 12 oz. Gatorade’s it will cost them an extra $3.24 in taxes which will add up fast. The article then goes on to discuss what types of drinks are taxed. It includes any drink which contains a sugar based sweetener. So this list consists of energy drinks, sweetened teas, sports drinks, coffee, soda, etc. Drinks containing an artificial sweetener are also taxed. However there is an exception, if the drink contains more than 50% of fruit/vegetable juice then it does not have to be taxed.
The article on Fox News, written by Brooke Singman, explains what the sugar tax funds and provides arguments from both sides of the tax. In the article it says, “The revenue will be used to fund initiatives for areas in need of improvement like community schools, parks, rec centers, and libraries – and for expanding the city’s pre-K programs.” Despite the good cause the money is going to, many people agreed the funds should be collected some other way, yet nobody had any suggestions. Also David Mccorkle, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, claimed that Philadelphians cannot afford the tax which led to his assumption that they would just do their shopping outside of the city leading to a decrease in overall sales within the city. However spokesman Mike Dunn challenges this statement by reminding him how the tax is not a sales tax, so distributors are not required to pass the tax down to shops and sellers, but they choose to do so anyway to prevent a cut in profits. The article then ends with a quote from Mccorkle saying that if sales do decrease due to Philadelphians shopping elsewhere then they will make cuts somewhere to stop Philadelphia’s economy from decreasing.
James Krieger, writer for Healthy Food America, goes in-depth when he describes how Mayor Kenney was able to pass the tax. He first explains that in order to pass the tax, Kenney needed to win the votes of city council. Then he says how Mayor Kenney’s timing was perfect. Krieger shared how Kenney suggested the idea of the tax at the end of one of his budget speeches and said it would fund “universal pre-k and other benefits for poor and minority communities”. But what mostly helped him was the fact he was inaugurated in January (when the tax was passed) and still in the “honeymoon phase”. The next thing he says is that Kenney did a good job at framing the tax. Mayor Kenney suggested to other cities to do what he did “Tie the tax to programs that tie to residents and members of City Council”. This was a great idea on his part because if he gained the members of City Council’s interest then he would have a greater chance at receiving their vote to pass the tax. The article then goes on to explain how determined the opposition was towards the tax. It goes on to explain how big soda companies paid lobbyists to try and change council member’s viewpoints on the matter. Kenney even said “We had people at City Hall everyday for meetings with members, stopping people in the halls when they saw them. They were relentless.” This wasn’t even the worse part, apparently the opposition even spent 4.9 million dollars to advertise against the tax and the other side didn’t hold back either, in return they spent 1.4 million dollars on ads that shared the benefits of the tax. Mayor Kenney also took his tax to social media, he used it to try to gain and promote positive feedback for the tax which was successful in the end.
Despite the negative reactions to the tax, all of the articles agree the funds are going to a good cause. They just feel that the tax should not charge Philadelphians an extra $3 for a 12 pack of Propel that already costs $5.99 (Fox News). Or that it shouldn’t worsen Philadelphia’s economy by causing citizens to shop outside the city. I personally believe they should lessen the tax and then look elsewhere to help bring in more money to fund pre-k and poor communities.
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