A Statement from GNPCC

A statement from the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposal to seek a three cents per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks presents a dilemma. There is a persuasive argument against the tax made by beverage makers, their employees, the drivers who deliver their products and the store owners who sell them. Conversely, because the money generated will address longstanding problems in education, infrastructure and the city’s pension gap, it is tempting to be in favor of it.

However, the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce must ultimately reflect the views of its membership on public policy, and with regards to this issue, it was relatively easy to find consensus.

Our members, especially our Board members, have been exposed to a plethora of information on both sides of this issue. A good cross section of the Board was personally briefed by Mayor Kenney and members of his Administration. The full Board met with representatives of the beverage industry and the Teamsters union local. The amount of news coverage afforded this issue–including paid advertising–has also helped to keep members aware and informed, even if the messages were slanted.

Some of our organization’s largest members–Coca Cola, Pepsi, Crown Holdings, Wawa, ShopRite and Teamsters Local 830–are vehemently opposed to the tax and told us so in no uncertain terms. Despite repeated outreach, we could not find one member company in favor of the tax. Of course, we admit there probably are members who support the tax that we are not aware of.

Is there a compromise path on which to proceed? ¬†A member of our Board has suggested a halt to city wage tax reduction in order to fund pre-K education and other initiatives, and despite the Mayor’s public rejection of that idea at his April 15 appearance at our luncheon at the Union League Golf Club at Torresdale, might he reconsider?

We believe in the benefits of pre-K education and the statistics support our position. Some of the parks and recreation centers in the Northeast could surely use some overdue TLC. Our four police districts, especially the 2nd and 15th District headquarters, have been inadequate for the last 20 years. We believe these are worthy investments. Who could honestly oppose these projects?  Certainly not us, which is why we spent so much time gathering information and opinions before reaching a conclusion that best represents our membership.

We oppose the Mayor’s proposal to implement a three cents per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks. It places an onerous burden on a single industry and, in turn, on both local store owners whose customers can drive to shop in the suburbs and the residents who can’t and must rely on neighborhood corner stores. Beverage industry representatives and restaurant and supermarket owners have convinced us that despite the Administration’s repeated assurances, the tax will be passed onto consumers. It will not be borne by businesses.

Should a new proposal from the Administration or City Council emerge that offers better options, we would certainly examine it as carefully and thoughtfully as we have the current one.

May 10, 2016

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