Philadelphia became one of the first big cities in America to implement a beverage tax on sugary and diet drinks when City Council gave final approval Thursday afternoon.
The legislation for a 1.5-cent-per-ounce so-called "soda tax" was approved 13-4 by the governing body, which spent weeks debating the merits of the levy. Councilmembers voting against the bill were the body's three Republicans, Brian O'Neill, David Oh, and Al Taubenberger, and Democrat Maria Quinones-Sanchez.
About $91 million is expected to be raised, and much of the new funds will go to Mayor Jim Kenney's plans for universal pre-K.
Hundreds again flooded council chambers Thursday for one more day of rigorous debate. Opponents of the tax include beverage distributors and drivers and lobbyists for "big soda." Prior to the vote, some said the tax is illegal.
The vote came on the final day of council's spring session before the body's summer recess. It represents a big win for Mayor Kenney early in his first term, as similar legislation failed twice before.
Immediately after the vote, an opposition coalition called Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax vowed to take its fight to the courts.
"This tax is unconstitutional, and that's why we will take this fight to the courts to defend our broad-ranging coalition of more than 30,000 Philadelphians and 1,600 businesses and community organizations," the group said in a statement.
Mayor Kenney also released a statement saying, “Thanks to the tireless advocacy of educators, parents, rec center volunteers and so many others, Philadelphia made a historic investment in our neighborhoods and in our education system today. I commend City Council for working with these community leaders to make quality, affordable pre-K, community schools and systemic improvements to parks, rec centers and libraries a reality. I also thank my colleagues in Council for working with our administration to craft a shared agenda that will improve the education, health and prosperity of children and families all across our city for years to come. Today would not have been possible without everyone coming together in support of a fair future for every zipcode.”