Monday, July 6, 2015

Soda tax opponents to challenge poll results

Last week, Mayor Nutter touted a poll that he claimed showed public support for a tax on soda and sugary drinks, saying the survey found that 53 percent could get behind such a proposal. Now, soda tax opponents are looking to turn that same poll against him.

Soda tax opponents to challenge poll results

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Last week, Mayor Nutter touted a poll that he claimed showed public support for a tax on soda and sugary drinks, saying the survey found that 53 percent could get behind such a proposal. Now, soda tax opponents are looking to turn that same poll against him.

According to an internal memo of the coalition “Philly Jobs, Not Taxes,” soda tax opponents are preparing to challenge Nutter's interpretation of the data. The memo, obtained by “It's Our Money,” argues that the poll actually shows a majority of people oppose the tax as currently designed.

The memo says that the question that found support for the soda tax was based on a flawed assumption. Soda tax opponents challenge the notion that new revenue from the tax would actually fund anti-obesity programs.

“The question that supporters cite posits that the tax will be used to fund childhood obesity programs. This question, while interesting, does not reflect the underlying public policy reality as the current proposals sets asides less than a third of the revenue for obesity prevention. The vast majority will go into the general fund, with no promise that it will be used for any particular purpose.”

Here is the text of the question under discussion (the entire poll is here):

Would you support or oppose a law in Philadelphia that would tax sugar-sweetened beverages, such as non-diet soda, sweet teas, sports and energy drinks by one cent an ounce, or 12 cents for a regular sized can, to fund programs to fight childhood obesity?

The memo, which will be presented to City Council next week, points instead to a separate question on the poll, which does not include reference to childhood obesity programs, and concludes:

“More than half the electorate (54%) say they oppose the tax, with 42 percent strongly opposed. This flips beverage tax supporter's storyline upside down -- Philadelphians do not support, but actually oppose a soda tax in principle.”

What do you think? Have Mayor Nutter and other supporters of the soda tax oversold the amount of public support it has? Or does the poll really show that people are ready to get behind the idea?

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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