Judge throws out lawsuit aimed at killing Philly soda tax

Philly soda tax would incentivize less consumption, says mayor
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An early legal challenge to Philly’s soda tax fizzled on Monday.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s long-touted 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sweetened drinks will go into effect Jan. 1 as planned after a judge dismissed an anti-tax lawsuit filed by the American Beverage Association and several local business owners.

Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Glazer’s decision dismissing the lawsuit was releasedMonday.

Philadelphia became the first major city in the nation to pass a tax on soda in June.

Kenney has pushed hard for the tax to help finance such programs as universal pre-K; the Rebuild program to restore parks, recreation centers, playgrounds and libraries; and community schools.

“Today is much more than a simple vindication of the legal principles on which the tax is based,” Kenney said in a statement. “It is victory for Philadelphians, who have waited far too long for investment in their education system and in their neighborhoods.”

Opponents of the new tax filed suit in September, calling the tax “illegal” because it was not imposed statewide.

But City SolicitorSoziPedroTulante said the judge firmly sided with the city’s legal arguments.

“The judge upheld the key points of our argument: the Philadelphia Beverage Tax cannot be considered a sales tax, and neither does it violate the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution,” Tulante said in a statement.

Shanin Specter, an attorney handling the lawsuit to stop the tax, previously said that if unsuccessful in city court, he would appeal.

But Kenney urged them to drop their suit.

“I urge the soda industry to accept the judge’s ruling and do the right thing for the children of Philadelphia, many of whom struggle in the chilling grip of pervasive poverty,” he said. “The industry has chosen not to challenge beverage taxes in other municipalities and there is no reason to continue pursuing it here.”