Byko: Here’s where to get pre-K money

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Opponents of Mayor Kenney's proposal to add a tax on sugary drinks took their protest to the street last week, demonstrating outside City Hall.

When I wrote about the ill-advised soda tax proposal on Friday,  I didn’t cover two points, for reasons of space.

The first is the health argument, which is a case Mayor Kenney did not make, perhaps because it failed, twice, when Mayor Nutter tried it. As a Councilman, Kenney (then) opposed the soda tax.

The health argument goes like this: We (as a city and a nation) suffer from rising rates of diabetes and obesity, Sugary drinks, such as soda, contribute to that. That’s not open to dispute.

Also not open to dispute is that salt contributes greatly to high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, and also increases in stomach cancer.

You see where I am going. Why single out a single ingredient in a single product, and vilify the manufacturers?

If sugar is so damn bad, and in large doses it is, why not tax sugar itself – in the five-pound bag and every product that contains “too much” of it -- ice cream, canned fruit, pastry, bottled pasta sauce, candy, Frosted Flakes?

Why single out soda? And why a staggering three cent an ounce tax that would actually exceed the cost of the product in some cases?

Then came a report from Harvard University researchers – and as soon as I heard that, I could predict the result – that there would be major health benefits for Philadelphia if the tax were enacted.

The study was funded by the anti-sugar Healthy Food America and JPB Foundation, which supports low-income people.

The report was not peer-reviewed, which means it was not subjected to scientific scrutiny.

Let’s accept – without peer review – pre-K is a good thing. Providing education is the responsibility of the city and the state, not Coke, Pepsi and Mountain Dew.

To portray soda bottlers and distributors as anti-children, as Kenney has done, for not volunteering for economic castration is disgusting.

Instead of beating them up, why doesn’t he think hard about where he can find the $80 million a year for his programs.

$80 million is 2 percent of the $4 billion city budget.

Is Kenney not creative enough to find that money in the existing budget? That’s what parents with little savings have to do if they want to send their child to a special school.  

Kenney needs help and here are a few suggestions:

Whatever the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) costs the city, get rid of it, except for police and firefighters.

Confiscate and sell tax delinquent homes.

Reduce the tax abatement for Center City, which is booming and no longer needs it. It is welfare for the rich.

I’m told there’s millions owed to the courts, among other deadbeats. The city even has a website for them

Collect every damn dime from them before asking us for more.

If a tax must be raised, make it broad-based – the real estate tax. Yes, I know there have been four increases in five years because I pay them, but Philly’s rate is below surrounding counties. (I’d excuse some on fixed incomes from the increase.) Make the increase big enough to do the job for a decade, and also big enough to allow a reduction in the wage tax. That would be a boon for the poor, who usually don’t own homes and who often work in low-paying jobs.

We should have learned, from taxing alcohol and cigarettes, “sin taxes” don’t do the job over the long haul.