Sweetened beverage tax faces final hurdle

Soda industry, city make respective cases in court

Pat Loeb
May 14, 2018 - 8:31 pm
Soda Generic

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The fate of Philadelphia's sweetened beverage tax rests with arguments scheduled for Tuesday in the state Supreme Court. 

Nearly two years since the tax passed City Council after a hard-fought campaign, the city is still waiting for a final ruling on the tax's legality.

The high court is the last hurdle for the controversial tax.

Mayor Jim Kenney said he's feeling confident since two courts have already ruled in favor of the tax, and he believes the city's argument — that a tax on distribution does not duplicate any state taxes — is sound. 

The soda industry will argue it's actually a sales tax in disguise, which would violate state law. 

But the mayor's anti-poverty program is at stake — a combination of expanded pre-K, community schools and a rebuild of city infrastructure for community improvement and employment — all to be paid for from the tax.

"This is between having a better life for our kids or having billionaires get richer. And I think it's pretty easy where to come down on," Kenney said.

The mayor hoped to have the programs rolling at full steam by now but has held the revenue in reserve in case of an adverse ruling. The tax has raised $90 million since it took effect in January 2017.