Plaintiffs to appeal after judge refuses to stop Philadelphia soda tax

- The controversial soda tax set to take effect in Philadelphia next month took a step forward when Common Pleas Court Judge Gary S. Glazer rejected the lawsuit challenging it filed by the American Beverage Association and others.

But Shanin Specter, of Kline & Specter, PC, representing the plaintiffs in the beverage industry's lawsuit against the city, issued this three-word statement: "We shall appeal."  

Lawyers for the beverage industry tried to block the tax, arguing it duplicates the state sales tax already imposed on soda and unfairly taxes drinks based on their size, not price.

They had also said they’d appeal a pro-tax ruling to the state Supreme Court. Instead, Mayor Jim Kenney urged them to "do the right thing for the children of Philadelphia, many of whom struggle in the chilling grip of pervasive poverty." (See statement below.)

The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax amounts to 18 cents on a 12-ounce can of soda or $1.44 on a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles. Two cities have soda or soft drink taxes but more than 30 cities and states have rejected them.

The city issued these statements in response to the judge's ruling:

City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante: “We greatly appreciate the thorough and timely consideration that Judge Glazer gave to this matter.  The Judge upheld the key points of our argument: the Philadelphia Beverage Tax cannot be considered a sales tax, and neither does it violate the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

Mayor Jim Kenney: "Today is much more than a simple vindication of the legal principles on which the tax is based.  It is victory for Philadelphians, who have waited far too long for investment in their education system and in their neighborhoods.  I urge the soda industry to accept the Judge’s ruling and do the right thing for the children of Philadelphia, many of whom struggle in the chilling grip of pervasive poverty.  The industry has chosen not to challenge beverage taxes in other municipalities and there is no reason to continue pursuing it here.  Regardless of their decision, the City will not stop pursuing what those kids need most – quality pre-K, Community Schools, and better parks, libraries and rec centers.”

Also, from City Council President Darrell Clarke: "I am grateful for the timely resolution of this matter, and I urge the plaintiffs to spare taxpayers the cost of further legal action. Philadelphians and the elected Council members who represent them overwhelmingly support the initiatives the so-called soda tax will support. Expanding quality pre-K to all children, particularly our most disadvantaged and unlucky kids, is a worthy investment in our City’s future. Rebuilding public spaces will enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods and create family-sustaining local jobs for Philadelphia residents. If the diversity and inclusion Philadelphians demand and deserve are honored by these initiatives, our City will have a more skilled and more competitive workforce that will attract new employers and residents and expand our tax base. I urge the business community to be our partners, and not obstacles, in progress."

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