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May 21, 2016

Union leader: Philly container tax 'fails the fairness test'

Service worker's chief: Alternative to Kenney's plan wouldn't create necessary funds

A ranking member of a local service workers’ union doesn't view City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown’s alternative to Mayor Jim Kenney's proposed tax on sugary drinks as an option.

Gabe Morgan, vice president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union, said in a statement Friday the "container tax" would not meet Philadelphia's needs the way Kenney's original plan would.

"The container tax would fail to produce the revenue needed to fund pre-k, community schools and rec centers, once again, leaving Philly kids underfunded," Morgan said.

Reynolds Brown recently laid out a plan for a 15-cent tax on containers, which would impact packaged, non-dairy liquids.

Her proposal was presented as a second option to Kenney's plan for a 3 cents per ounce tax on sugary drinks to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program, improvements to city parks and other initiatives.

The service union is among the groups that compromise Philadelphians for a Fair Future, a coalition that supports the tax. A group called the No Philly Grocery Tax has formed in opposition to the plan.

Critics of Kenney's plan claim the tax would be regressive, as lower-income families tend to buy more sugary drinks, an argument Morgan rebuked.

"Unlike the soda tax, the container tax is regressive because it covers a wage range of essential products, including water and health supplements," Morgan said.

"Instead of helping Philadelphia schools, the container tax could actually hurt them by taxing beverages which the District serves in large volumes to schoolchildren.”