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When Philadelphia became the first US city to pass a soda tax last summer, city officials were eagerly looking forward to the surplus-tax funded windfall to plug gaping budget deficits (and, since this is Philadelphia, the occasional embezzlement scheme). Then, one month ago, after the tax went into effect on January 1st we showed the tax applied in practice: a receipt for a 10 pack of flavored water carried a 51% beverage tax. And since PA has a sales tax of 6% and Philly already charges another 2%, the total sales tax was 8%. In other words, a purchase which until last year came to $6.47 had overnight become $9.75.
What happened next? Precisely what most expected would happen: full blown sticker shock, and a collapse in purchases.
According to Philly.com reports, two months into the city’s sweetened-beverage tax, supermarkets and distributors are reporting a 30% to 50% drop in beverage sales and - adding insult to injury - are now planning for layoffs.
One of the city's largest distributors told the Philadelphia website it would cut 20% of its workforce in March, and an owner of six ShopRite stores in Philadelphia says he expects to shed 300 workers this spring. “People are seeing sales decline larger than anything they’ve seen up to this point in the city,” said Alex Baloga, vice president of external relations at the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association.
Since all of this is taking place as previewed in a recent post: "The 'Soda Police' Just Learned A Valuable Lesson About Taxes", we doubt it would come as a surprise to anyone, although we are confident that Philadelphia city workers will be amazed by these unexpected developments.
Sure enough, in response instead of admitting the tax was a bad decision, the city lashed out by launching the latest "fake news" campaign, when it questioned the legitimacy of the early figures and predicted that customers responding to the initial sticker shock by shopping outside the city would return. “We have no way of knowing if their sales figures and predicted job losses are anything more than fear-mongering to prevent this from happening in other cities,” said city spokesman Mike Dunn.
Mayor Kenney harshly rebuked reports of coming layoffs late Tuesday night.
"I didn't think it was possible for the soda industry to be any greedier," Kenney said in an emailed statement. “…They are so committed to stopping this tax from spreading to other cities, that they are not only passing the tax they should be paying onto their customer, they are actually willing to threaten working men and women's jobs rather than marginally reduce their seven figure bonuses."
The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened and diet beverages is funding nearly 2,000 pre-K seats this year as well as several community schools, and the city hopes will bring in $92 million per year for the education programs and to in part fund renovated parks and recreation centers. To hit its annual target, the city needs to collect $7.6 million a month in tax revenue. The first collection was due Feb. 21 but collection information won’t be available until next month. Early projections from the city's quarterly manager's report predict only $2.3 million will come through in the first collection. Dunn says that figure is expected to rise and the city still anticipates hitting its goal for the year.
The city predicted a 27% sales decline industry-wide as a result of the tax but early returns from some beverage sellers show far higher losses, fueling a resurgence of the anti-soda tax coalition that fought vigorously against the tax last summer.http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-22/philadelphia-soda-tax-leads-30-50-plunge-sales-mass-layoffs