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June 08, 2016

Councilwoman reportedly says Kenney has votes for (compromised) soda tax

Council meeting today to discuss proposal

It's not quite what he asked for, but Mayor Jim Kenney will likely be getting a portion of a proposed tax on sugary drinks, according to a report.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says Councilwoman Cindy Bass has ditched plans to introduce a proposal that would have increased the real estate tax by 7 percent over five years. Why? Her plan was supposed to be an alternative to the sugary drinks tax, but Kenney's got the votes for that — just not at the original rate of 3 cents per ounce.

Instead, according to the newspaper, he'll likely get a 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and diet sodas, the latter of which were not impacted by the original plan.

PhillyMag noted that if any increase to the real estate tax — such as the one Bass was working on — had been passed by Council, it would have been the fifth such hike since 2011.

Bass is reportedly among the nine votes needed to pass the apparent compromise to Kenney's original plan (also known as the "soda tax," and as the "grocery tax" by opponents), according to the Inquirer.

Kenney wants to use the revenue to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program, improvements to parks and recreation centers and body cameras for police, among other things.

Bringing the rate per ounce down shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the way many council members initially received the plan.

President Darrell Clarke called it "ridiculous," adding he didn't believe there was support for a 3-cents-per-ounce tax.

A slew of alternatives were floated as ways to avoid the sugary drinks tax, and they included:

• A 15-cent tax on any beverage container larger than 7 ounces

• The proper collection of the city's already-in-place 10 percent tax on any liquor, wine or malt and brewed beverage

• The registration and operating fees for ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft

Whether Kenney does, in fact, have the votes to pass the sugary drinks tax will likely be known Wednesday after Council meets to discuss how to fund universal pre-K. Opponents of the tax plan are expected rally at City Hall starting at 9:30 a.m.