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New coalition formed to fight regressive Philadelphia tax proposal

Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax, a broad-based coalition made up of more than 10,500 members including local businesses and individual Philadelphians, has formed to urge City Council to reject a regressive 3-cent-per ounce grocery tax. If passed, the tax would cause many everyday grocery items like juice drinks, teas, sodas, sports drinks and fountain sodas to double in cost.

The coalition members represent over 500 businesses including corner stores, grocery stores, bodegas, movie theaters and restaurants across Philadelphia. The coalition also includes thousands of working Philadelphians from all across the city. All of them are united in their opposition to a tax proposal that would fall hardest on small family-owned businesses, working families and our poorest communities.

The Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax Coalition is dedicated to educating Philadelphians about the discriminatory proposal which would impact more than 1,000 beverages found on families’ grocery lists. They know that this will cause the grocery bills of ordinary families to skyrocket and drive business out of the city, putting family-sustaining jobs at risk.

“Thousands of Philadelphians and small businesses across our city have already joined our coalition because they realize that this tax will hurt families,” said Ricardeau Scutt, Chairman of the No Philly Grocery Tax Coalition and owner of a Saladworks in the Andorra neighborhood. “I agreed to serve as chairman for our coalition because costs for my restaurant would skyrocket if this tax is approved. There’s no question that we would lose customers and be forced to lay off employees.”

“This tax will hurt small grocery stores like mine, which operate on thin margins and are community anchors,” added Dany Vinas, owner of C-Town Supermarket in North Philadelphia. “This tax will put my family-owned business at risk. We need support from the city, not another tax.”

Atif Bostic, executive director of UpLift Solutions, a non-profit organization that brings retail grocers into low-income neighborhoods, said this tax would impact Philadelphia’s poorest communities the most and discourage grocery stores from opening in food deserts across the city.

“This tax proposal is unfair not just to neighborhood businesses but to our poorest communities,” Bostic said. “The administration has admitted that this tax would fall disproportionately on low-income families. This proposal would make it more difficult to improve access to groceries to our poorest neighborhoods because it would substantially increase the cost of doing business for everything from the neighborhood corner store to the large supermarket.”

If this unfair tax proposal is approved, the tax on a common 2-liter priced at $1.79 would be $2.04, more than the cost of the product. Right now a 20-can family pack costs $5.99, but tack on a new $7.20 tax and the price would rise to $13.19.

“Shoppers won’t be able to afford the higher prices grocery stores will be forced to charge for these items,” said Dave McCorkle, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, which represents 3,200 retail food stores employing more than 150,000 workers across the Commonwealth. “We expect families to flee over the county line and shift their shopping to the suburbs to escape these prices. A gallon of iced tea that costs $2.88 today would cost $6.72 with this tax. This tax will be passed directly onto the consumer.”

Along with the 3-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks sold at grocery stores, fountain beverages would be taxed at 4.5-cents per ounce. This means it would be even more expensive to eat at many local restaurants, attend sporting events or even visit the local movie theater.

“As the owners of a small family business that has been in Philadelphia for 95 years, I feel compelled to speak out in opposition to the proposed 3-cents-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks,” said Anne McNally, owner of H&J McNally’s Tavern in Chestnut Hill. “Should this tax be passed, it will reduce choices for Philadelphians and hurt businesses like ours.” “Most of the proceeds from our ticket sales go straight to the big movie studios in Hollywood,” added Bradley Miller, managing director for the Pearl Theatre at Avenue North. “We rely on concessions to stay open and provide one of the poorest sections of the city affordable entertainment. This tax threatens the survival of our business because it will drive people away from the movies or cause them to sneak drinks in. We are imploring City Council to reject this tax and find other ways to raise money for the proposed initiatives. Our businesses will be unable to absorb such an enormous price increase.”

Worse, as the tax drives down sales like the city predicts, there will be less money to pay for the programs it’s intended to fund, making it an unreliable and unsustainable source of revenue. In the end Philadelphians will likely be left with higher grocery bills but without the programs they have been promised.

A similar coalition successfully fought off an effort to impose a similar tax on Philadelphia families five years ago. The number of coalition members is expected to rise in the coming weeks as more and more people learn about this unfair tax proposal.

Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax is a broad coalition of concerned citizens, businesses owners, movie theaters, and community organizations actively opposing the city’s proposed new grocery taxes. To learn more about the Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax coalition, visit www.NoPhillyGroceryTax.com.

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