By Jake Blumgart
May 20, 2016
Before summer blockbusters run on the big screen, audience members are bombarded with ads against “the grocery tax,” as the soda industry prefers to call it, while our city’s proposed sugary drinks tax is discussed in publications from NPR to the New York Times.
Kenney’s proposal, which would cover soda, “juice” drinks and sports drinks but not diet beverages, would induce a levy of three cents per ounce for distributors rather than at the point of retail. But it is widely believed that the costs will then be passed on to retailers and then consumers. In addition to raising the $400 million over five years for pre-K, parks and rec rehabilitations, and other worthy causes, it is also thought that the consumption of soda will decline.
The soda industry will fight down to the last cartridge to prevent Kenney’s proposals from coming to pass. But it remains unclear whether his tactic of emphasizing the programs that will be funded by the revenues, rather than the health benefits, will prove a winning one.
City Council has to pass its own version of the budget by May 30. Then Kenney has about a month to approve, veto or decline to sign the budget – by June 30. A mayoral veto can be overridden by a council supermajority (12 members). If the mayor fails to act – refusing to either sign or veto – the budget automatically goes into effect.
Philadelphians confused or worried about the outcome do have several points of reference to consider. Just two years ago Berkeley, California became the first American city to pass a tax (one cent per ounce) on sodas and other sugary beverages. In 2014 Mexico passed a one peso per liter tax on soda, while several states have had much smaller taxes on the beverages for decades.
We looked at the research and the campaign literature to find the following lessons learned in our predecessors’ efforts.