As the School District of Philadelphia and the city government’s treasuries come up short, Mayor Nutter wants to plug the shortfall with a bitter pill that could leave a bad aftertaste in the midst of a dose of reality.
Mr. Nutter wants City Council to impose a tax on sugary drinks — an idea that fizzled when he tried it last year. Back then, he touted the health benefits of the proposed tax by pledging a portion of the revenue to help make Philly fitter. There’s none of that this time around. Now he’s saying the tax would go solely to the school district.
Still, the beverage industry is pouring tons of money into newspaper ads and incessant and very annoying radio commercials to again kill the idea, and the lobbying might just work.
Never mind that opponents’ claims of unfairness and economic discrimination are overblown. Paying a few cents more for a bottle of pop won’t kill Joe Average — heck, in the long run it indubitably will help to reduce diabetes, obesity and dentists’ ability to buy a second yacht by getting Mr. Average to switch to water as his beverage of choice.
Compared to other sources of revenue for the city, however, the sugar tax would be a Band-Aid on a financial abyss.
Whether the sugar tax is enacted or not — it should happen, but it won’t — Mr. Nutter should look to another area for a true “sin tax.” He should use his bully pulpit to prod City Council to add a $10 surcharge on each pack of cigarettes sold in Philadelphia. Such a move would generate plenty of cash for public education. Oh, and it would save plenty of lives, many more than those saved by reduced consumption of sugary drinks.
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