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One year in, Philadelphia soda tax still controversial

Associated Press photo

Laura McCrystal reports for

Soda prices have gone up in Philadelphia. And so has the number of children attending pre-K.

While those are among the things that have changed in the first year of Philadelphia’s tax on soda and other sweetened beverages, there has been one constant: The tax remains Controversial, and advocates on both sides are working hard and spending money to support or fight it.

The 1.5 cents-an-ounce tax went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and raised $72.3 million in its first 11 months. But is the tax successful? And is it here to stay? The answers to those questions depend on whom you ask.

City officials have defended the tax as a means of funding pre-K, community schools, and improvements to parks, libraries, and recreation centers. But the beverage industry has poured resources into opposing the tax through advertisements and legal challenges, and business owners say the tax has hurt them and led to layoffs.

Both sides are still waiting to hear whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will consider the legality of the tax. And because Philadelphia is the first major U.S. city to pass the tax, others are watching. Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, passed and then repealed its own version of the tax last year. Seattle passed a tax that takes effect New Year’s Day. Other cities, including Oakland, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., have also imposed taxes on soda.

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One year in, Philadelphia soda tax still controversial


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