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Philadelphia Tribune - May 4, 2016

Bloomberg enters sugary tax debate

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has entered the debate on Mayor Jim Kenney’s 3–cents–per–ounce drink on sugary drinks and has contributed an undisclosed sum to a nonprofit group starting an $825,000 ad campaign this week in support of a the tax.

Bloomberg tried unsuccessfully to ban oversized sodas in New York, and supported successful soda–tax efforts in Mexico and Berkeley, Calif.

The Kenney administration is promoting the tax as a way to provide for universal pre–k, and estimates it could generate $400 million over five years. Administration spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the administration was happy to have Bloomberg’s support.

“It's great to have the support of a nationally recognized businessman,” Hitt said. “I hope these ads will correct the misinformation the other side has already spent millions spreading.”

The No Grocery Tax Coalition doesn’t see it that way.

“Bringing in a New Yorker to force his personal agenda on Philadelphia families is the latest desperate act from an administration that admits it is losing in its attempts to foist this regressive tax on our city," said Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for a coalition against the tax. "The people of New York rejected and resented Mayor Bloomberg's overreaching policies when he was mayor, and now he's trying to export them to Philadelphia families.”

The American Beverage Association has already spent more than $1.5 million on its Philadelphia anti–tax campaign. Two organized groups have launched counter efforts.

Daniel H. Grace, spokesman for Teamsters Local 830, which represents a large portion of the area’s beverage delivery workers, bashed Bloomberg as an out–of–towner who should mind his own business.

“After failing to ban oversized sodas in New York City, it now appears that Michael Bloomberg wants to impose his oversized ego and will on tax–weary Philadelphians. As Sen. Bernie Sanders recently stated, Mayor Jim Kenney's soda tax is regressive. It will primarily hurt the very people it's intended to help — the city's poor,” Grace said. “Sanders is right. Now, Bloomberg and Houston's John Arnold, a pair of outsider billionaires, are coming into our city to force low–income Philadelphians to pay dearly in order to fulfill their own personal agendas. It makes no sense.

“I also find it ironic that the pro–soda tax group can come up with nearly $1 million virtually overnight to pay for an advertising campaign, but claim to have no money or funding alternatives other than a regressive soda tax to pay for universal pre–k and other programs,” Grace added. “If anything, the overnight infusion of major dollars into the pro–tax lobbying group's coffers should convince city lawmakers that there are better, fairer ways to fund needed programs other than heaping the enormous burden on the back of one industry.”

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