Kenney’s Soda Tax Gets a Big-Name Supporter: Hillary Clinton

Clinton said she was "very supportive" of the mayor's plan Wednesday at a forum in Philly.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Texas Southern University Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Houston.

The war over Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposal to tax sweetened beverages is fierce. The soda lobby is spending at least $1.5 million to oppose his plan, and Council members are raising pointed questions about it. Meanwhile, a coalition of numerous civic and labor organizations is lobbying hard for the levy.

On Wednesday, Team Soda Tax got a boost: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came out in favor of Kenney’s plan. CNN reports that she discussed Kenney’s proposal, which would fund expanded pre-K and other initiatives, at a forum hosted by a gun control group.

“It starts early with working with families, working with kids, building up community resources. I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal pre-school for kids,” Clinton said. “I mean, we need universal pre-school. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.”

The American Beverage Association has been airing radio ads against the tax for weeks, and released its first TV spot on April 8th. The pro-soda tax coalition, known as Philadelphians for a Fair Future, is planning to release ads in the future. We wouldn’t be surprised if Clinton — or her words of support, at least — make an appearance in those ads.

Kenney endorsed Clinton in February — something that didn’t go unnoticed by opponents of the soda tax. “The mayor has endorsed Secretary Clinton, so it is not unusual that Secretary Clinton would support him. That is politics,” said Larry Miller, a spokesman for Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax, a coalition of business and labor groups funded by the American Beverage Association. “Her main message, however, is that she supports pre-K, and our coalition is not against pre-K either, but we need to pay for it the right way so it can be sustained.”

After the forum on Wednesday, Clinton appeared at the Fillmore in Fishtown, where Black Lives Matter protesters and Secret Service agents clashed.

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