Bill Introduced in State House Would Kill Philly’s Soda Tax

A state representative from suburban Pittsburgh called taxes on food and beverages “revenue grabs.”

Photo by Kwangmoozaa/iStock.

A state representative from suburban Pittsburgh introduced a bill on Monday that would prohibit Pennsylvania municipalities from taxing food and beverages. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mark Mustio, would retroactively nix Philadelphia’s controversial soda tax and has already received bipartisan support.

“While there is no question that the goals of funding pre-K and rebuilding city assets in Philadelphia are laudable and should be pursued, it is my belief that the beverage tax levy has proven to be an extreme burden on retailers, especially grocery and convenience stores in the city,” the Allegheny County Republican wrote in his memorandum to fellow representatives late last year.

Calling Philly’s soda tax a “revenue grab,” Mustio says Pennsylvanians deserve the comfort in knowing that their grocery bills won’t rise “on the whim of elected officials.” Under Mayor Kenney’s guidance, Philadelphia implemented a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on all sugary or artificially sweetened beverages in January 2017. Recent estimates show as much as three-quarters of the $85 million generated by the beverage tax remains to the city’s general fund.

“If the tax stays in place, it is not inconceivable that stores may begin to close, which would be a tragedy for people living in those neighborhoods,” Mustio claims. “In addition, it has already become clear that the soda tax revenues have not hit the city’s estimates, and probably will not achieve the goals that were intended.”

A spokesman for Mayor Kenney’s office told PennLive.com that they had not reviewed the legislation but “it is clear that the bill’s sponsors are catering to the whims of the multibillion-dollar beverage industry, which has spent millions fighting the tax in court and with a relentless PR campaign.”