The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The Needy, Greedy City

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Mayor Jim Kenney was elected last year with a promise to bring universal prekindergarten to Philadelphia. With no way to pay for it, the Mayor needed a solution. So now, the City of Brotherly Love has implemented the soda tax.

Originally proposed at 3 cents-per-ounce, the city council passed a tax half of that amount at 1.5 cents-per-ounce. The potential tax revenue (estimated at $91 million over the first year) is supposedly dedicated to building community schools and refurbishing parks and recreation centers around the city. But nearly 20 percent of the money raised would go to other city programs and employee benefits; not to helping kids and building new schools, as Mayor Kenney led his constituents to believe.

Mayor Kenney has also taken a different approach to the soda tax than previous efforts in other cities. Instead of the usual “eat your fruits and vegetables” mantra, often associated with taxes designed to curb unhealthy behavior, Mayor Kenney is offering Philadelphians something tastier: a giant slab of money to fund ‘popular’ city projects. Mayor Kenney says his soda tax could potentially raise approximately $400 million over the next five years.

This ill-advised tax increase will end up doing more harm than good for Philadelphians. Historically, when governments have imposed a tax on any good (in this case soda), that punitive action results in less of the revenue-generating activity, thus diminishing the supposed windfall.

The soda tax is a terrible policy. Voters in cities across the country have indicated repeatedly that they are opposed to soda taxes. If Mayor Kenney and the city council were truly interested in helping the kids, 20 percent of the revenue would not be going into the city’s general fund to pay for elected officials unrelated pet projects.   

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