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What they're saying: Declining Revenues aren't the way to fund Pre-K

BillyPenn: Tough questions bubble up during City Council’s soda tax session
By: Mark Dent, 05/11/16

“Consumption [is] primarily in low-income neighborhoods,” Clarke said. “I don’t know why it’s that difficult to say.”- Council President Darrell Clarke questioning Finance Director Rob Dubow regarding which communities will be hardest hit by the Mayor’s tax proposal.

“There is this elitist view that the people we’re highlighting on this map have options.”- Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez referring to a map of low income communities.

NBC10: Soda Tax Battle Bubbles Up in Front of Philadelphia City Council
5/11/16

“Everybody wants pre-k, but how we get there in terms of funding is something else. We don’t have the information.”- Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell

“I’d like to see these very important programs funded in a more responsible way and in a more predictable way.”- Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez

Newsworks: Soda tax again draws heat from Philly City Council
By Tom MacDonald 5/3/16

“If there are declining revenues, then we will ultimately get to the point where we will have to raise another tax to maintain particularly the level of service that you are proposing which is quite significant.” - Council President Darrell Clarke

“We don't live on an island. People will actually go to Delaware County, to Montgomery County, to Bucks County, to Gloucester County to Kent County in Delaware to avoid this.”- Councilman Al Taubenberger

Philadelphia Inquirer: Reassessment an underassessment for many, city says
By Claudia Vargas, 5/6/16

Councilman Alan Domb, a real estate mogul known as the "Condo King," said market values have gone up 3 percent or 4 percent each year since AVI. "We could be collecting $40 million more each year" if assessments matched the current market, he said. Domb said land values, especially in commercial high rises, are undervalued. He would like to see the city ramp up its efforts to accurately assess all properties. "You wouldn't be talking about any soda tax if we had this," Domb said.

Newsworks: Fate of Philly sugary drinks tax still uncertain
By Tom Macdonald, 5/10/16

Council President Darrell Clarke said last week that a three cents-per ounce tax was an issue. This week Clarke was noncommittal, saying he wasn't sure there are votes to pass any tax, even if smaller than three cents.

Clarke says he's still concerned how the tax would hit poorer neighborhoods. "We have maps that reflect where those locales are when the sugary drinks are being sold it's clearly in the lower income neighborhoods," he said.

WURD Radio: The Nick Taliaferro Show Mustafa Rasheed
Philadelphians for a Fair Future 5/5/16

“Having conversations about the implementation at this point is far more premature than we need to be.” Mustafa Rasheed, a representative from Philadelphians for a Fair Future responding to a question about how the Mayor’s pre-k plan will actually be implemented if the tax is passed.

Philadelphia Daily News: Soda-tax supporters aren't seeing the full picture
By Dom Giordano, 05/12/16

“…The real answer to the question is that the soda people don't want schools to be underfunded. They are revolting against being targeted and often maligned. They are engaged in free enterprise, and that system is under attack from people too afraid to find money for pre-K in the bloated budgets of the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Public Schools.”

Philadelphia Daily News: Are we Seeing the Death of Soda?
By: Stu Bykofsky, 5/13/16

There is more consumption "in lower-income areas and lower consumption in more affluent areas," says Stanford, which means the tax falls more heavily on the poor, something city Finance Director Rob Dubow reluctantly conceded.

Singling out soda is discriminatory (open to possible legal challenge, says City Solicitor Sozi Tulante), unfair, and - taking into account already falling soda sales - doomed to failure.

Sales of CSDs [carbonated sugary drinks] last year fell for the 11th straight year, hitting a 30-year low, Beverage Digest reported in March. In the last 20 years, soda sales plummeted by more than 25 percent.

That is another reason the proposed massive tax on sugary beverages is unlikely to do what Kenney expects - help fund quality, universal pre-K, plus upgrades for some parks and rec centers, totaling $80 million per year.

Daily Caller: Philadelphia’s Proposed Soda Tax is Government Manipulation
By: Josh Smith and William Shughart, ,05/12/16

Philadelphia’s soda tax is the same manipulative move that has been proposed and defeated in so many other states.

Manipulative taxes like the soda tax are equally morally bankrupt because the people of Philadelphia are treated as pawns for bureaucrats to play with until they make the right choices. The right choices, of course, are those that the bureaucrats want them to make, not the ones individuals would freely choose themselves.

If passed, Philadelphia’s soda tax will create another revenue stream for the city’s coffers, but why single out drinkers of sugary soft drinks? If the pre-K program truly generates widespread benefits, it should be financed by broad-based taxes. Of course, increasing property taxes, sales taxes, or income taxes would trigger a far more powerful backlash.

Philadelphia Inquirer: City should help cops earn college credits on the job
By: Harold Jackson, 05/13/16

It would be better to fund preschool with property tax revenue, which if Philadelphia shows how much it cares about its children will only increase as more people want to live here. City officials say a 7.75 percent increase would annually raise about the same $95 million portion of the soda tax for pre-Ks and add only about $140 a year to the tax bill of the owners of a $130,000 house.

Of course, it’s harder to sell a property tax increase to the public than a soda tax hike. But wasn’t Kenney elected because he said he’s ready to do the hard work it takes to make Philadelphia a better city?

Philadelphia Tribune: Beverage tax will trickle down to hit the poor
By: Harold Hairston, Former Philadelphia Fire Commissioner

“Whatever label is put on it, it will further strain the ability of our most vulnerable citizens to simply put food on the table.

There is no doubt that this is a regressive tax and it’s going to fall hardest on low-income families. These are concerns that have been raised in City Council during recent budget hearings.

The second is once distributors and retailers cross county lines to restock – and they will — how would this tax be enforced? Are we potentially looking at a new city department just for this, or expanding an existing department? Either way, more money will be siphoned off from the city budget to cover those beverage tax enforcement agents.

In the past, the government has stopped short of imposing hurdles to one’s ability to pick up traditional items at the grocery store. After all, Philadelphians are already paying one of the highest sales tax rates in the commonwealth.

Philadelphia Daily News: Want political chips with your soda tax
By Stu Bykofsky, 5/6/16

“The two major funders of the pro-tax side are Texas millionaires Laura and John Arnold, and Bloomberg, the Big Bucks Buttinski. They want Philadelphia - America's poorest big city - to levy the biggest soda tax in this galaxy, which is not far, far away.”

Philadelphia Daily News: Here’s where to get pre-K money
By Stu Bykofsky, 5/9/2016

“To portray soda bottlers and distributors as anti-children, as Kenney has done, for not volunteering for economic castration is disgusting.

Instead of beating them up, why doesn’t he think hard about where he can find the $80 million a year for his programs?

$80 million is 2 percent of the $4 billion city budget.

Is Kenney not creative enough to find that money in the existing budget? That’s what parents with little savings have to do if they want to send their child to a special school.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: Why the soda tax won’t raise the money pre-K requires
By Joel L. Naroff, 5/1/16

“I support Kenney's universal pre-K initiative…But once pre-K is started, it would be an educational disaster if it were not funded fully and correctly.

And in a city that is perpetually fiscally stressed, choosing a revenue source that fails to provide the needed funds is not an option.

Universal pre-K education should be implemented. But for all the reasons described, a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is not likely to come close to generating the necessary revenues required to fully fund the program.”

Philadelphia Daily News: Funding pre-K doesn’t solve problem of underfunded schools
By George Bezanis, 5/4/16

“I have concerns about the revenue source the mayor is relying on to fund these proposals. Instead of turning to tried and tested methods for securing funding, the mayor has embarked upon a risky strategy to tax sugar-sweetened beverages that could result in a protracted legal challenge. Even the mayor has acknowledged such a challenge is a "very real possibility," and Finance Director Rob Dubow has testified before City Council that this could delay implementation of the tax. If policy objectives such as universal pre-K are a priority - and I believe they should be - then the mayor should find a dependable source of revenue that can't be tied up for years in the courts or easily evaded.”

Philadelphia Daily News: What we tax is as important as how much we tax
By Josh Vincent, 5/4/16

“There's no getting around the reality that a very few, very different sectors of Philadelphia's community will be affected: beverage companies, smaller retail outlets and people of modest means.”

“Right now, a charge on the taxable land values in Philadelphia could bring in the same amount of revenue as proposed, with a much more progressive outcome based upon ability to pay. Results? The soda tax in the lowest income ZIP code 19133 would be transformed into a modest $12 a year extra charge on the land portion of the property tax. Chestnut Hill would go to about $450 a year. Good tax policy not only means getting the revenue for the programs we want, but making sure that all share in their contributions to the community: residential and nonresidential, in the neighborhoods and in Center City.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: Gauge real impact of soda tax
By Charles Slater, 5/4/16

“The Harvard University study projecting major health benefits from Mayor Kenney's proposed tax on sugary drinks is a computer simulation based on assumptions about how people's behavior might change ("Study: From drinks tax, a healthier city," Thursday). There seemed to be no consideration of the likely results of demonizing a common and popular product.”

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