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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: October 10, 2017 04:20 PM
From: Senator Mario M. Scavello
To: All Senate members
Subject: Soda Tax Preemption Legislation
In the near future, I intend to introduce legislation to preempt local taxation of sweetened beverages in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The legislation will be designed to prohibit any municipality from levying such a tax while also invalidating the current soda tax in Philadelphia.

While there is no question that the goals of funding Pre-K and rebuilding city assets in Philadelphia are laudable and should be pursued, it is my belief that the beverage tax levy has proven to be an extreme burden on grocery and convenience stores in the city. Over the past two decades, Philadelphia has gone from having one of the worst “food desert” problems in the nation to being a true leader in providing high quality fresh foods to neighborhoods across the city. The imposition of this unfair tax is threatening those efforts in a very real way, with some stores reporting as much as a 20% drop in revenue since its inception. In the grocery industry, a drop of that magnitude is very difficult to overcome. If this tax stays in place, it is not inconceivable that stores may begin to close, jeopardizing access to high quality foods for people living in the city of Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

In addition, it has already become clear that the soda tax revenues have not reached the city’s revenue estimates, and very likely will not achieve the goals that were intended.

It is incumbent upon Philadelphia elected officials to go back to the table and come up with a more predictable and fair funding mechanism for pre-K programs and capital improvements. Singling out one economic sector with an unfair tax that is twenty-four times higher than the tax on beer is, at best, nonsensical. It is critical that we help the city maintain access to high quality fresh foods and groceries, while also protecting the thousands of jobs in the industry.

Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation. If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact Christine Zubeck in my office at 717-787-6123 or czubeck@pasen.gov. Thank you for your consideration.