Philadelphia soda tax funds new pre-K program launched

Philadelphia Soda Tax
Teacher Patty Cronin helps three-year-old Makayla Grant open her package of cereal during preschool in Philadelphia, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. Thousands of Philadelphia toddlers are starting 2017 in a city pre-kindergarten program, launched this week alongside a new sugary beverage tax created to fund it. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia, PA – Thousands of Philadelphia toddlers have started 2017 in a citywide pre-kindergarten program as a new Philadelphia soda tax created to fund it hit store shelves.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney proposed the tax last year as a way to establish universal pre-K. According to city officials, they received more than 3,700 calls regarding the new program. Over 2,200 families applied during the enrollment period, which began in the fall.

The program will run approximately $23-million. Each center receives $8,500 dollars per student, funded by the soda tax. Philadelphia residents are experiencing the price hike of the new tax – a case of Gatorade which originally cost $5.99 is now priced at $8.39. The tax is expected to bring in more than 90 million dollars in revenue to help fund universal Pre-K programs and other city improvements.

The goal is to invest $210 million over five years to pay for the current 2,000 seats now, 3,000 by this fall, 4,000 by the fall of 2018, 5,000 by the fall of 2019 and 6,500 by the fall of 2020.

More than eight in 10 applicants live at or below the federal poverty rate.

Philadelphia soda tax goes to court

Philadelphia Court of Commons Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer dismissed a lawsuit the American Beverage Association and local retailers and distributors filed against the City in December. The Kenney administration is asking the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to have a final legal decision.

Passing the new soda tax

When the levy was approved last year, Philadelphia became the largest city in the nation to create a specific tax for soda and sugary beverages. The tax took effect on Jan. 1, with a per-ounce rate 24 times more expensive than the state’s tax on beer.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney first proposed the tax in March 2016; it passed the City Council 13-4.