Mayor Nutter's second try in two years for a tax on sugary drinks is withering in City Council, where no more than seven of 17 Council members are prepared to help the Philadelphia School District with a soda tax.
"I think that feeling is the pulse of the issue," said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, a leading proponent of raising up to $100 million for the schools through Nutter's 2-cents-per ounce tax on almost all sweetened beverages. The School District has already passed a budget that includes more than 3,400 layoffs and massive cuts based on a $629 million budget shortfall, but has asked Council to ease the pain by providing $100 million by whatever means necessary.
Even as Nutter stumped for the soda tax in a tour of schools Tuesday, a cluster of Council members were meeting Tuesday afternoon in President Anna C. Verna's office to determine what their options are without a soda tax.
Nutter's bill, to be considered in committee before Thursday's Council meeting, would raise $60 million in the first year and $80 million subsequent years. The only other proposals to raise the bulk of the funds are a 10 percent property tax hike to raise $95 million - following a 10 percent property tax hike last year - and a 3.5 percent property tax hike to generate $37 million and combine with other sources for a reduced amount, $50 million, for the district.