There are lots of reasonable arguments against the proposed 2-cent-per-ounce soda tax. You’ve got experts who say sin taxes encourage switching to “more bang for your buck” strengthened sins (as is often the case with cigarette taxes), you’ve got some who think store owners will spread the tax around to all their food, and you’ve got those who don't think the tax will generate enough money to curb our budget woes.
But then you’ve got the arguments for it. It may curb weight gain amongst our city’s residents, government needs some extra cash, and, oh yeah, the Pennsylvania Beverage Commission’s lobbyists are total dicks. They’ve been openly lobbying to fight Nutter's plan “with outreach to City Council members who must vote on it,” according to KYW. Nutter is calling the lobbying efforts “A bit of a tragedy.” Which it is, and astroturf campaigns always are.
Americans Against Food Taxes and other, similar organizations argue that a soda tax will kill jobs at local soda factories, and the tax unfairly falls on the shoulders of working families (the oldest trick in the book followed by the second oldest). Dan U-A wrote on Young Philly Politics last Thursday that “Coca Cola bottles in Philadelphia, and sells to the region. People in Philly pay the tax, people outside don’t. It is not as if Coke would have an incentive to move out of the city--the same consumption tax would still exist.” And diet soda isn't taxed in the plan.
Americans Against Food Taxes' main rallying point is against a national soda tax--which it seems they've won, for now. Its coalition includes Pepsi, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Pennsylvania Beverage Association, Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, and the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, among many others. Its website even quotes PA Beverage Association member Tom Crisci as saying a soda tax will “impact those who can least afford to pay more for products and services they need or enjoy,” adding “there’s no evidence that new taxes will help reduce obesity.” Except there is.
Mayor Nutter’s soda tax would have to be enacted almost perfectly to achieve its intended benefits to the city. Misinformation on the subject will only lead to a less effective policy if and when the law passes.
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.
"I like to buy things that are two-for-one,” says Councilman Brian O’Neill. “Well, this is the reverse of that! This is the one-for-two tax. You pay for two, and you get one.”