University, businesses split on soda tax

Mayor Jim Kenney proposed the tax earlier this month.

Soda cases sit inside Gee’s Market, located near Willington Street and Montgomery Avenue. | KATHRYN STELLATO TTN

On March 3, Mayor Jim Kenney proposed his first budget to City Council, which included a three-cents-per-ounce soda tax, which he said would generate $400 million during the next five years to help fund pre-K programs, open 25 schools and rebuild parks, among other initiatives.

Ken Kaiser, the university’s CFO and treasurer, believes the tax will benefit Philadelphia for health and education reasons.

“The little kids with this income, they’re going to have universal pre-K,” Kaiser said. “That is a huge thing. I guarantee it ends up saving even more money because these kids will be in school, it’ll get them on the right path for their education and it will pay dividends forever for these kids. It’s proven if you’re in pre-K, you’re going to be on a different path than if you’re not.”

According to the Center for Public Education, studies show that children who receive quality pre-K education tend to enter elementary school “more ready to learn than their peers,” and are less likely to become involved in violent crime once they become young adults.

Kaiser said he’s sympathetic if it prevents citizens from drinking beverages they enjoy, but he has “no problem taxing sugary drinks as long as the money is going toward something that is really good.”

He added if Kenney’s budget gets passed, it won’t have a significant effect on Temple’s meal plan options for students.

“The total cost of your meal plan for a year is $1,800 or $1,500 depending on which one you get,” Kaiser said. “The sugary drinks make up less than 1 percent of that.”

While Kaiser favors the tax, students on Main Campus told The Temple News they have mixed emotions about Kenney’s plan.

Chloe Smith, a junior social work major, believes Kenney can find another way to fund education than tax sugary drinks.

“A lot of schools locally aren’t doing that great but I don’t get why he’s considering to do it through soda and why not do it through something else,” Smith said.

“As a teacher I think there’s a huge benefit for pre-K but I think kids at that age need unstructured play time,” added Laura Sensenig, a senior music education major. “I would rather see the money go into education at the lower and high school level.”

Lexi Pattinson, a senior media studies and production major said more money should go toward elementary and high school because they need “books and actual supplies” for education.

Nicole Higginbotham, a freshman business management major said she appreciates Kenney’s efforts to reduce unhealthy decisions but is worried about the lower-income communities who could be affected by this tax.

Along with lower-income residents, small businesses could also be harmed by Kenney’s proposal.

Michael Sanchez, 29, and manager of Pazzo Pazzo—a pizzeria and restaurant at 1614 Cecil B. Moore Ave.—said revenue from the tax is going to a good cause but Kenney has to look at both sides. He added in the long run it may help schools, but it’s going to affect his business: a month ago, Coca-Cola told him to raise his drink prices by 10 cents for every item.

“If everything works out on the paper as it should it works,” said Han Park, 52, the manager of Gee’s Market located near Willington Street and Montgomery Avenue. “But we cannot raise the price. Even if we raise [the price] like 5 cents we get a lot of complaints. It’s a losing situation for both.”

Park, who has run Gee’s since 1981, said he was hurt by the cigarette tax that was passed in 2014. He added since the tax is citywide and not statewide, consumers will travel elsewhere to purchase soda like cigarettes.

He said  “people complain about [paying] 99 cents” for drinks, and that the tax would drastically affect his sales.

Sanchez agreed, predicting that the tax will not work in the long run.

“Of course it’s going to hurt everyone,” he said. “It’s going to be too much and no one is going to pay for it.”

Tom Ignudo can be reached at or on Twitter @Ignudo5.

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