The Ernest Opinion: Kenney, start planning a plan B for your sugary drink tax

soda tax, massachusetts soda tax

Council President Darrell Clarke laid down the law at City Hall on Wednesday when he dismissed plans to vote on the sugary drink tax proposed by Mayor Jim Kenney to pay for universal pre-K.

This would be the part where I would tell many of you who followed this saga “I told you so”… but like our entrenched elected officials, I don’t see this as a competition, more like a difference in approach.

For one, it’s time for both sides tell the truth.

Kenney, this isn’t simply a tax on soda, it’s also on tea, lemonade, juice, sports drinks and other beverages that contain a high amount of sugar. So it’s fair to say it’s a regressive tax given that it will penalize consumers for purchasing something basically equivalent.

However, that being said, this is not a grocery tax . That’s a little extreme, but reasonable given that such beverages are easily accessible in supermarkets and corner stores across the city.

Collectively, both opponents and proponents of this tax shouldn’t question either side’s desire to funduniversal pre-K and other recreational projects.

Kenney’s administration turned me completely off after implying to the press that only supporting the proposed tax shows one’s support for such initiatives. I disagree. I, too, want lower-income communities in Philadelphia to thrive. I just don’t think taxing them an additional 3 cents for every sugary ounce they drink is the solution.

And neither do the majority of our city council officials who are rallying behind the possibility of a broader based tax to refrain from what Clarke has described as something “divisive” during Wednesday’s budget hearing.

“Everyone on this side of the table knows that there’s not going to be a 3-cents-an-ounce tax,” he told Rob Dubow, Kenney’s financial director.

As of right now, Kenney has told the media that there is currently no plan B solution to this problem. I personally think he’s lying given that Dubow admitted that they don’t exactly need 3 cents to fund his proposal – actually about 2.5 cents.

This has now opened up the possibility of finding more holistic ways of getting the money required to support the programs. Kenney should be proud that he dragged this issue to the center of budget talks. Now it’s time for him to step up and consider other feasible options to get it passed.

An ideal situation would be a possible flat container tax, supplemented with a push for reduced spending on large-scale projects (we just blew millions on the papal visit when ex-Mayor Michael Nutter said it wouldn’t cost the city) with other miscellaneous cuts.

I have faith that City Council knows that the pressure is on them to get something done, but Kenney has to be cooperative and let his current 3-cent fantasy evaporate. Leaders provide options; dictators give ultimatums. I believe there’s more ways to funding universal pre-K in Philly than just one.

Let’s let liberty prevail in the nation’s birthplace of independence. Get it done!

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