Less than an hour after saying she planned to introduce a real-estate tax increase, City Councilwoman Cindy Bass pulled the plan late Tuesday, saying Mayor Kenney had secured the votes to pass a tax on sugary drinks.
The deal is surely tentative, but Council sources said members seemed to be coalescing around a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages and diet soda.
Kenney's spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, would not comment, saying that "as a councilman for 20 some years, Mayor Kenney knows how important it is to respect Council's process."
A deal took shape on a day when it seemed that storm clouds had set in over Kenney's proposed sugary drinks tax, when Bass - widely considered a likely supporter of his plan - floated an alternative.
In a memo to Council members, Bass suggested raising the real estate tax nearly 7 percent over five years. Late Tuesday, she confirmed that she would introduce the proposal at a meeting of Council's committee of the whole on Wednesday.
Less than an hour later, Bass said she was pulling the proposal.
"I think there are enough votes for soda," she said. "We did want to offer our colleagues an option. It looks like soda is the option people seem most comfortable with."
Bass would not say what rate had been agreed upon. She counts herself among the nine yes votes, pending any last-minute alternatives.
"I've said, if the only thing on the table is soda, I would be supportive, because I want to get these initiatives done," she said. "If this is what's on the table, then I want to support these initiatives."
Kenney has asked Council to pass a 3-cent-per-ounce tax to fund an expansion of pre-kindergarten and improvements to parks, recreation centers, and libraries, among other initiatives.
A separate proposal introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown would tax drinks at 15 cents per container, not by the ounce.
Council's committee of the whole had been expected to vote on one of the options Wednesday, a deadline if the full Council wants to pass its budget without extending its legislative calendar.
With the vote nearing, competing rallies for and against the sugary beverage tax are planned for Wednesday morning. Advocates likely to react strongly to news of a possible agreement need only to look to when Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a similar tax to know how fleeting consensus can be.
As several Council members remember, the mayor locked down the votes for a modest tax for all of a half-hour before one member dropped out.