Council rejects soda tax, approves property tax

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Philadelphia City Council heads into the summer after having raised property taxes again, and according to Mayor Michael Nutter, having dropped the ball on retirement plans.

Council got one more earful of the public's contempt as they prepared to pass that nearly 4% property tax hike to offset school district budget cuts.

"I work for the Philadelphia School District, and I see the waste," said Rolanda King. "The utterly disrespectful waste and I am supposed to be okay with them hiking up my taxes?"

In an election year, the vote on new taxes was far from unanimous, 11 to 6.

The council rejected Mayor Nutter's sugary drink tax, saying yes to the third property tax hike in three years.

It was a big win for the soda industry which fought the soda tax with all their might, passing out large campaign contributions.

"The soda tax is a tax that we don't know that we can actually rely on to provide revenue next year. It also is a tax that sends a signal to businesses around the country that Philadelphia is not going to have a clear, level playing field," says Councilman William Green.

The property taxes will raise nearly $40 million dollars with a promise from the school district to use the money on yellow school buses, reducing class size, accelerated schools, and early childhood education.

The Mayor announced late Thursday that he will veto the new bill that cuts the cost of the controversial Deferred Option Retirement Plan, even though it reduces its cost.

The council last week voted 14-3 to keep DROP alive. It will need 12 votes to override the Mayor's veto when the showdown comes in September.

"Citizens have spoken time and time again that they want this program to go away. Not a little bit, but completely," said Mayor Michael Nutter.

"I'm not a hypocrite," said Council President Anna Verna. "I voted for it before, and I will vote for it again."

The council's regular sessions are now recessed until September.

Few are pleased with the verdict on taxes, except of course, the soda companies and their powerful lobby.

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