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July 17, 2017

Big Soda appeals Philadelphia tax to state Supreme Court

The tax already has survived two court decisions

Courts Soda Tax
06302017_City_Hall_Soda_Illo PhillyVoice Illustration/Credits: Somrakjendee; trekandsho


The American Beverage Association is appealing a court decision that upheld the legality of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax.

The so-called soda tax, which taxes a variety of sugary beverages, went into effect in January after the Court of Common Pleas dismissed a complaint challenging its legality.

A panel of Commonwealth Court judges upheld the lower court's decision in June, prompting the beverage industry to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The American Beverage Association is joined by a number of other organizations and individuals in its appeal, including the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia beverage associations.

Philadelphia became the first major American city to adopt a soda tax last summer. It levies a 1.5-cents-per-ounce on sweetened beverages, including sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored water and re-sweetened coffee and teas.

Mayor Jim Kenney pushed for the tax as a funding mechanism for free pre-kindergarten seats, a community schools initiative and public park improvements.

Kenney called the soda lobby's decision to appeal the latest court decision "unfortunate" despite two "clear and convincing" defeats.

"It is particularly unfortunate for the children of Philadelphia, who now may need to wait longer for the free pre-K seats and expanded Community Schools that benefit them and their families," Kenney said in a statement. The appeal is also disappointing for the seniors of Philadelphia, many of whom regularly make use of the City’s parks, recreation centers and libraries in these hot summer months – facilities sorely in need of the renovations that the Rebuild program will provide."

Kenney said these benefactors are "kept waiting" as a "multi-billion dollar industry desperately pays millions to attorneys" to continue its legal fight.

"We will be patient, though, and I’m confident the City will prevail,” Kenney's statement said.

The soda lobby has fought the tax, claiming it is unconstitutional. 

But the courts consistently have ruled against them, finding that the tax is not duplicate the sales tax, does not conflict with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and does not violate the state's uniformity clause.