Looks like Nutter's going all beach chair on the Healthy Philadelphia Initiative (soda tax) and the Keep Philly Clean Fee (trash fee) – but he still needs to scrounge up $150 million by May 30.
City Council was a madhouse yesterday as union bottling employees and others cheered on dissenting Council members who criticized Nutter’s biggest budget controversies. Huddling in the back but making their presence known, workers held signs reading “Soda Tax=Lost Jobs” and “Philly Jobs Not Taxes,” the latter of which could be downloaded from SavePhillyJobs.com, an organization with more than 800 Facebook friends.
Councilman Bill Greenlee was quoted by the Daily News as saying: “Tastykakes, cheese steaks…There are lots of products that contribute to obesity…Why target one particular industry?”
Council President Anna Verna and Councilmen Jack Kelly and Frank Rizzo Jr. also had problems with the tax. Fox 29 quoted Democratic whip Darrell Clark: “I’m just not seeing the support for it, to the tune of nine votes, which is required to pass it.”
The trash fee – which many have criticized because, um, we already pay for trash collection with our taxes – was basically dead on arrival.
Problem is, the city still needs the money and likely won’t cut their own staff or number of legislators at any point in the near future. So what’s left?
Property taxes. Frank DiCicco plans on introducing his idea of a 12% increase next Thursday, which City Budget Director Stephen J. Agostini said would raise the $107 million the city was looking to get from putting a second price tag on city garbage.
Last year, Nutter’s property tax increase proposal of 19% was shot down by City Council and, according to a Pew poll, opposed by 86% of city residents. However, spokesman Doug Oliver seems to suggest the mayor is flirting with DiCicco’s idea: “The administration is willing to consider proposals that come from Councilman DiCicco, but from other Council members as well. We have outlined what we think is the best of tough choices, but again, we're not married to our position.”
Now that that program, launched in 2010, is in full effect, beverage advocates seem to be running scared, putting together their own harsh ad campaign that’s either late to the federal health-reform party or early to the fight that Nutter and other local leaders may have in store later this year. And with the city budget still hurting, some believe the Nutter Administration may give the soda tax another stab.
If you thought the fight over redistricting was bitter, imagine the fracas that would erupt from an attempt to eliminate some of their seats.
With the soda and garbage taxes too controversial, Council has resorted to new, slightly more progressive taxes to balance the budget. Not surprisingly, there are still problems.
Seriously. We get a chance to respond in kind May 18 on a ballot measure to abolish the BRT forever. See you at the polls.