State House panel advances bill to kill Philly soda tax

Tony Romeo
May 01, 2018 - 3:39 pm
State Rep. Curtis Thomas (center) unsuccessfully sought to delay a vote on the Philly soda tax bill.

Tony Romeo | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Legislation that would repeal the citywide sweetened beverage tax has cleared its first hurdle in the state legislature. 

The Pennsylvania House Commerce Committee voted to advance a bill that would repeal Philly's soda tax, which would generally prohibit local governments from imposing new taxes on food and drinks. The Democratic minority chairman on the committee, state Rep. Curtis Thomas, unsuccessfully sought to delay a vote on the bill.

He argued that repealing the city tax will affect the youngest generation, since a portion of the revenue from the soda tax currently goes toward funding early childhood education and other city programs.

“We have this issue before the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court. I know that they will be hearing arguments on May 15," he said. “This is really about giving Philadelphians a chance to turn the corner."

Republican state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie said he’s heard from some constituents in Berks County who do business in Philadelphia, and "they have been very negatively impacted.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf said he has generally opposed state legislation to pre-empt local laws and is also a strong supporter of early childhood education.

State Rep. Brian Ellis, the Republican majority chairman of the committee, questioned the court's impending decision.

“Certainly I understand that there is a court decision forthcoming at some point," said Ellis. "But I — with all due respect, Chairman [Thomas] — I don't trust the court at this point.”