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Philly.com - June 9, 2016

Featherman: 'Soda tax' classic bait-and-switch

Bait-and-switch.

That’s the policy used by the City of Philadelphia to take more money from its residents and visitors through the so-called soda tax - and it’s nothing new.

Remember back in 2014 when the Philadelphia Parking Authority raised the parking meter rates in Center City, saying it wasn’t about money, but rather to increase turnover so the spaces weren’t tied up all day? They said that there will be plenty of affordable garage spaces open to the public.

Sounds like a noble public policy goal, right? But meter rates went up immediately after that. Then City Council and the mayor passed a law to raise the garage taxes to a whopping 22.5%. That’s in addition to the many other taxes garage operators pay including use and occupancy, real estate and storm water runoff.

At SEPTA regional stations, parking even doubled.

Yep. Classic bait-and-switch.

They peed on you, but told you it was raining. And it’s happening again via the “soda tax” -- this time in the name of “the children.”

But is it really about children, or are the politicians using our children?

“We heard it was all about the kids, all about the kids,” Democratic City Councilman Bill Greenlee was quoted as saying in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, adding, "Sometime this afternoon, we heard it's also about the fund balance."

Joe DeFelice, the Chairman of the Philadelphia GOP, was quick to pounce on Greenlee’s statement, telling me, "Soda makes you fat, they said. Drink water, they said. Well, guess what? City water rates are expected to go up 10%. The message from City Democrats to Philadelphians is clear: Don’t drink anything, and eat dirt.”

[Philly.com reported yesterday that the Water, Sewer and Stormwater Rate Board will raise Philly water rates by 10% over the next two years.]

Soda’s bad for you. Sugar’s bad for you.

Yep.

We get it.

But a lot of things are bad for you – and, arguably, the four major food groups in Philadelphia (cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels and water ice) will do you much more harm than a couple of swigs of Coke or Pepsi.

Why not tax them? [Now don’t you get any ideas!]

But regardless of where you stand on sugary beverages, there’s no question that no one on earth outside of City Council knew – until yesterday – that diet beverages were part of the legislation.

Nor did they admit, until recently, that a big chunk of the money isn’t going to the kids, but is going to a general fund to keep our bond rating satisfactory.

Why can’t they tell the truth? Why do they have to lie in the name of children? Why do they have to say it’s a sugar tax when it’s much more than that?

So don’t call this a “sugar tax.” It’s not. Don’t call it a “soda tax.” It’s not.

One councilwoman even wanted to create a “container tax.”

To her, I’d say, “Can it!”

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