THAT REFRESHING soda you enjoy is again the focus of a city-budget debate.
Talk about deja vu.
For the second straight year, City Council is pondering a proposal from Mayor Nutter to levy a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. This year, Nutter wants it to provide money for the cash-poor school district.
Though there is no consensus on Council yet, a soda tax does seem slightly more popular than other options on the table - a 10 percent property-tax hike proposed by Nutter and a 3.5 percent property-tax increase put forth by Councilman Darrell Clarke.
Here's our guide to the beverage tax:
Q. What's this going to cost me?
A. As proposed, the tax would be 2 cents per ounce. If passed on to consumers, it would add 24 cents to the price of a 12-ounce can of soda. But stores could spread the tax over all their beverages, or even all their merchandise, so just how you'd feel it isn't really clear.
Q. Is this different from last year's proposal?
A. Yes. Last year's plan was a business tax on retailers. This tax would be collected from distributors of any sugar-sweetened beverages when they sell to retailers - essentially bumping it to a different point in the food chain.
The revenue goals are similar. The administration hopes to get $60 million in the coming fiscal year if the tax kicks in Oct. 1.
Q. I thought there was a health benefit to soda taxes.
A. Last year, when Nutter proposed a soda tax, he touted it as a public-health initiative in a city with high obesity rates. This year, he hasn't mentioned obesity at all. Finance Director Rob Dubow yesterday said the administration's key concern was money.
Q. So this won't fight obesity?
A. If the tax were directly passed on to consumers, it would likely affect consumption. According to research from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, a tax of a penny per ounce reduces consumption by 10 percent.
Q. Didn't all kinds of people oppose this tax last year?
A. Yes, the beverage industry, union labor and merchants stood against the tax last year and are back. They argue that this tax would kill jobs and hurt small businesses. According to the American Beverage Association, Coca-Cola has 750 workers at its plant in Juniata Park, and Pepsi has 500 local workers, mostly in a Northeast Philadelphia plant.
Q. What kind of influence do those guys have?
A. The beverage industry is an incredibly strong force, and it had a small army of paid lobbyists and consultants in Council yesterday. They included Harold Honickman, owner of Canada Dry Delaware Valley Bottling Co., in Pennsauken. He and pro-soda political committees have made contributions to Council members over the past year.
Q. So what's going to happen?
A. Who the heck knows? Tune in next week. And bottoms up.