Second Court Upholds Philadelphia’s Tax on Soft Drinks

Several beverage groups filed a lawsuit claiming the 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax was unconstitutional.
June 16, 2017

PHILDELPHIA – This week, the Commonwealth Court upheld Philadelphia’s tax on soda with a 5-2 decision, the Philadelphia Tribune reports. This victory for Mayor Jim Kenney comes on the heels of a similar decision announced in December by a Court of Common Pleas judge.

“Two courts have now considered the arguments of the beverage industry and both are certain that the Philadelphia Beverage Tax stands on solid legal grounds,” said Kenney. “As I stated when the beverage tax was upheld in the Common Pleas Court, the children of Philadelphia are waiting for the opportunities that the tax can provide.”

The court cases stem from a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Beverage Association, the Philadelphia Beverage Association, other small businesses and city residents. The suit said the 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax on soft drinks was unconstitutional because of state food and drink taxes already in existence.

Commonwealth Court Judge Michael H. Wojcik wrote in the majority opinion that, “In this case, the PBT (Philadelphia Beverage Tax) and the sales tax do not tax the same subject, or the same person, and the field covered by the PBT has not been pre-empted by the sales tax.”

Ax the Bev Tax coalition contended that the tax has already eliminated jobs. “This ruling comes even as the public policy problems of this tax take center stage – the city has yet to meet its full collections goal and is moving the goalposts by revising its revenue projections yet again,” spokesman Anthony Campisi said. “Regardless of today’s ruling, the fact that this tax is bad for Philadelphia families has never been more clear.” The coalition said it would appeal the decision.

Earlier this month, the Seattle City Council approved a new soda tax that calls for 1.75 cents per ounce to be paid by beverage distributors, according to the Washington Post.