PHILADELPHIA (UPI) — The fifth-largest city in the United States, with its high poverty rate, scored an atypical victory Thursday as lawmakers approved a new proposal to tax soft drinks.
The Philadelphia City Council passed the measure by a vote of 13-4 on Thursday afternoon, to the delight of Mayor Jim Kenney.
The soda tax will levy 1.5 cents per ounce on sweetened soft drinks, beginning Jan. 1. The goal of the tax, officials say, is to generate additional revenue that can be used to fight the city’s poverty on a number of fronts.
“Thanks to the tireless advocacy of educators, parents, rec center volunteers and so many others, Philadelphia made a historic investment in our neighborhoods and in our education system today,” Kenney said in a statement. “I also thank my colleagues in Council for working with our administration to craft a shared agenda that will improve the education, health and prosperity of children and families all across our city for years to come.”
The poverty rate in Philadelphia has remained high for years, according to government data. The new revenue will go toward improving the lives of citizens through funding of education, job training and youth program initiatives, lawmakers said.
“This is the beginning of a process of changing the narrative of poverty in our city,” Kenney said at a news conference Thursday.
Similar measures have been proposed in various U.S. cities, but Philadelphia became the first major American metropolitan area to impose such a tax.
Last week, councilman David Oh, one of the four who voted against the tax Thursday, said the move was unnecessary.
“There is enough money in the current proposed Budget to fund the Administration’s new programs,” he said in a post to Facebook. “I will introduce an Amendment to use this money instead of increasing taxes.”
The new tax applies to all sweetened drinks sold by vendors in the city, and is expected to increase the price of a 20-ounce soda, for example, by about 30 cents. Traditional 12-packs will cost about $2.15 more.
Officials say the tax should generate an extra $90 million per year for city coffers.
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