Soda tax
The Philadelphia soda tax was created for the purpose of raising revenue.

PHILADELPHIA – The American Beverage Association, the Pennsylvania Beverage Association, Teamsters Local 830 and several small businesses jointly filed suit Sept. 14 in an effort to block a 1.5c-per-oz tax on sodas and several other drinks set to go into effect in Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 2017.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia County Court, seeks to enjoin and declare the tax invalid on the grounds it violates state law, terms of a federal nutrition assistance program and other reasons. In addition, the plaintiffs said the tax was regressive and harmful to small businesses and will “meaningfully diminish the everyday purchasing power of Philadelphia residents.”

Danny Grace of Teamsters Local 830
Danny Grace of Teamsters Local 830

“The soda tax helps no one, and hurts many,” said Danny Grace of Teamsters Local 830. “The jobs that will be lost as a result of the tax on soda beverages will put hardworking men and women out of work.”

A legal challenge was expected when the Philadelphia City Council approved the tax in June.

Unlike existing or proposed soda taxes in other cities that are aimed at combatting obesity, diabetes and other health issues or increasing nutrition education, the Philadelphia tax was created for the purpose of raising revenue, according to both proponents and opponents. It was expected to generate about $90 million annually, according to the Philadelphia mayor’s office, with about half of the revenue slated for pre-kindergarten education and about half for other city programs.

Also unlike other existing or proposed soda taxes, the Philadelphia tax applied to both caloric and non-caloric sweetened beverages and juice drinks that were less than 50% milk or real juice. Other soda taxes apply only to caloric-sweetened drinks.

It is estimated that the tax would add $2.16 to a 12-pack of 12-oz soda cans, $1.02 to a two-liter bottle of soda and 90c to a 10-pack of 6-oz juice boxes.

Berkeley, Calif., currently has a soda tax, and soda taxes will be on November ballots in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif., and Boulder, Colo.