PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney has little sympathy for those complaining about his controversial new sweetened beverage tax. After more than a week out of the public eye, Kenney visited with pre-K students at the Children's Playhouse in South Philly, where 30 children-- ages 3-to-5-- are newly added to the program.
It's part of a first step in a citywide pre-K expansion, with a goal of giving an additional 6500 youngsters a head-start on their education. PHL-Pre-K is paid for by a penny-and-a-half per ounce tax on sugary drinks, which took effect on January 1.
And the mayor was quick to dismiss critics of the tax.
"You'll have cranky people who complain,” Kenney told Fox 29's Bruce Gordon, “and it'll subside and we'll move on."
But just a few blocks from the Playhouse, at the J & Lin Deli and Mini-Market, owner Chen Yong Chun told Gordon the tax has forced him to raise prices and that has led customer to raise the roof.
"Nobody comes in for soda. They look at it-- that's it," he said. “They look and that's it-- 'bye bye!'"
A customer at the register overheard Gordon’s interview and interrupted to say, “I do not buy soda anymore. Because of the tax."
But Kenney insists the investment in early education is worth the price. And to folks like that customer at the register, the mayor is unsympathetic.
"Your life doesn't depend on soda,” he said to Gordon. “So it's not like an elixir of life that you need to drink every day or you die. So if you don't want to buy it, don't buy it. If you want to buy it in the suburbs, go buy it. But I think in the end, the overall majority of people understand that Harrisburg and Washington are not providing funds for education. And we need to provide funds for education or these children will languish in poverty."
Kenney also saved some shots for retailers, some of whom he claims are gouging customers by jacking up prices far beyond the level of the new tax, and blaming City Hall.
For the record, a 16-ounce drink should show a tax of 24 cents. The tax on a 20-ounce beverage is 30 cents.
And a 2-liter bottle (that’s about 67 ounces) should be about a dollar more expensive.
If you’re seeing prices hikes well beyond these levels for these sized drinks, maybe it’s time to have a talk with your grocer.