Tomorrow the Philadelphia City Council will vote on a proposal to implement a 2 cent tax on drinks they deem to be too “sugary”. The tax is such a clear job killer that the local Teamsters Union has come out against it. In today’s Philly Post, ATR ally Chris Friend gave an astute summary of the situation:

“Here’s what the Mayor doesn’t want you to know: a soda tax, while a burden to all, would be especially harmful to the poor, who can least afford another tax. Remember, these people are already living in what is, cumulatively, one of the highest-taxed cities in the nation.

More important, there’s no such thing as a 'tax on soda'. It’s a tax on people. Period.

Which is why the Mayor is dancing the Philadelphia Two-Step, doing everything in his power to distract the voters and avoid the real issues….

Sure, the city is facing fiscal problems, but breaking the backs of citizens to fix problems not of their making is simply wrong. Retiring or not, what politician really wants his or her only legacy to be a tax-raiser who presided over a violent, insolvent city with vastly deteriorated city services?

It is rare that a City Council vote holds so much importance. In this instance, the significance is not just whether a sugary drink tax is passed or defeated, but the message behind that vote:

Will Philadelphia continue its decline by engaging in more of the same failed policies?”

In a letter to the Philadelphia City Council, ATR President Grover Norquist wrote:

June 15, 2011

City Council President Anna Verna

City Hall, Room 405

Philadelphia, PA 19107

Dear Councilwoman Verna:

The city of Philadelphia needs a spending diet, rather than attempting to force their citizens into one. As such, Americans for Tax Reform urges that you reject the misguided the soda and sugary drinks tax proposal that is scheduled for a vote tomorrow.

There are a number of factors that cause obesity; singling out sugary drinks is an ill-advised use of government power that needlessly restricts citizens’ freedom to choose. The fact remains that there is simply no correlation between higher taxes on soda and obesity mitigation. An obvious example is West Virginia, one of two states with a soda tax. Despite having had a soda tax in place for the last 50 years, West Virginia has the nation’s fourth highest obesity rate. The other state with a soda excise tax, Arkansas, is also among the 10 most obese states in the country. Last year, the journal Health Affairs published a study showing that soda excise taxes have no noticeable impact on obesity.

Sugary drinks, just like every food product, already must show nutrition facts on the side of their cans or bottles. People know the sugar content. It’s why diet drinks are in demand. People should be allowed to make these decisions on their own without being hindered by a nanny state.

In addition to the need for more personal responsibility, and not government interference, this proposal is a job killer. Not surprisingly, PepsiCo has said that they would likely abandon plans to expand their bottling plant in Philadelphia if this tax passes. It’s not often that fiscally conservative groups align with unions, but this proposal is so clearly detrimental to the economy that even the Teamsters Union identifies this bill as destructive to jobs in Philadelphia and, as such, has come out against this bill.

The fact is that this bill has nothing to do with health or obesity. It is just another economically inept cash grab that will just drive employers and jobs out of what is already one of the most heavily-taxed jurisdictions in the U.S. Given the fact that $350 billion in net federal tax increases have come out of Washington in just the past two years, it’s imperative that lawmakers not pile on with more job-killing tax increases at the local level. Philadelphia, in a time of nearly double digit unemployment, cannot afford to send jobs away from the city. For the sake of Philadelphia taxpayers and the local economy, I urge that you vote “NO” on the soda and sugary drinks tax.


Grover Norquist

Cc: Philadelphia City Council