Former Councilman: Need $$ for schools? City should revisit soda tax

DROP has Frank DiCicco squirming on the barbie.

It was an intense budget season two years ago in June.

Mayor Nutter badly wanted City Council to approve his proposed 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks as part of a plan to raise $100 million for the struggling school district.

And for a brief moment there were nine votes for a 1-cent-per-ounce soda tax, then Councilman Frank DiCicco told PhillyClout. But, in a matter of moments it all fell apart, likely due in part to the soda industry's aggressive lobbying and Nutter's lack of support in Council.

DiCicco, who has since retired and is now a lobbyist and political consultant says elected officials should take another crack at a soda tax as a way to help the school district in its ongoing financial crisis. 

"I would revisit the sugary-drinks tax," DiCicco said, also including the cigarette tax to that list which failed to get state approval in the spring. "I think these are the taxes that don't affect people."

The idea certainly hasn't lost its fizz. Nutter has not ruled out trying a soda tax again, though he failed to get it through twice.

And so, what are the odds the Mayor will ask Council to approve a soda tax next budget season? 

"We saw it as a great new source of funding for education," said Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald, adding "We are indeed some ways off from putting together a proposed budget for fiscal year 2015."

DiCicco said whatever the city decides to do, Council and the administration --whom are pushing two competing plans to get the district the promised $50 million needed for schools to open --will have to work together.

DiCicco said there's merit in both proposals, but worried that the troubled school district might drive people out of Philadelphia.

"This battle is not going to benefit anyone," DiCicco said. "At the end of the day if it doesn't get fixed both sides lose. Everybody wants to be a winner."