January 30, 2020-
When Philadelphia became the first big U.S. city to pass a soda tax in 2016, the rest of the country was watching. Mayor Jim Kenney basked in a national spotlight, appearing on CNN as even presidential candidates weighed in on the issue. And public health advocates predicted many others would follow in Philadelphia’s footsteps. Now, as Kenney starts a second term following a 2019 reelection campaign that saw the beverage industry spend about $1.5 million fighting the tax, it seems likely to survive as his signature achievement. But Kenney is still one of relatively few mayors whose city taxes sweetened beverages.
Only seven cities levy a tax on soda distribution, and Philadelphia is the only one on the East Coast to do so, according to The Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank. No new taxes have taken effect since January 2018. The beverage industry has mounted an effective counteroffensive in the past three years, backing state “preemption” legislation that now bans municipalities from passing new taxes in Arizona, California, Michigan and Washington state.