State Supreme Court won't hear Philly soda tax appeal

Philadelphians will have to wait a bit longer to know whether the sweetened beverage tax will be a permanent fixture. 

The state Supreme Court denied Monday the city's application to have the court make a final decision as to the legality of the sweetened beverage tax. The case is under appeal in Commonwealth Court, but the city has argued that the pending litigation is stalling programs the tax was created to fund, including a prekindergarten expansion and a renovation of many of the city's parks and recreation centers. 

In its order issued Monday, the court only noted that the application "is denied."

 “The Supreme Court’s denial of our request is not unexpected, as they denied a similar King’s Bench petition filed by the American Beverage Association at the outset of the lawsuit," City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante said.  "We are confident the Commonwealth Court will uphold the legality of the beverage tax, just as the Court of Common Pleas did.”

Shanin Specter,  one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said Monday,  "The city's request looked like an effort to avoid the Commonwealth Court.  I'm not surprised the Supreme Court denied it."

 

In November, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined a King's Bench motion by the attorneys challenging the 1.5-cent-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax. At the time, the plaintiffs, who included residents, businesses, and organizations including the American Beverage Association, said the case would eventually wind up in state Supreme Court and therefore wanted the court to hear the case immediately. 

After the court turned down the request, the decision was left to Common Pleas Court Judge Gary S. Glazer. On Dec. 20, Glazer ruled the tax legal and dismissed the lawsuit

An appeal soon followed. On Jan. 1, the tax went into effect. 

The Kenney administration asked the state's highest court in January to take the case so that the issue could be resolved quickly. 

"The longer it takes for this lawsuit to finish, the longer it will be until we can fully implement the programs we hope to fund with the tax," city spokesman Mike Dunn said Monday. 

If the appeal is still underway in September, the city will not be able to further expand its prekindergarten program for the new school year, city officials said. 

Commonwealth Court has agreed to an expedited schedule. Arguments are expected to begin the week of April 3.