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Taste the (unsweetened) irony

Thirty-six Pennsylvania legislators recently signed a letter to the Commonwealth Court to overturn Philadelphia’s tax on sweetened beverages.

The motivations of 33 signers are mysterious but not our concern. But State Senator Tony Williams, Representatives Angel Cruz and Martina White, the remaining three signers, represent parts of Philadelphia and their districts are set to receive nearly $4.5 million in tax revenues this year.

Thanks to the sweetened beverage tax, which was enacted on January 1, their communities have 522 toddlers in quality pre-k and at least 53 teaching jobs. And we’re not even mentioning the benefits to businesses and their employees, the life-changing impact quality pre-k has on children in poverty, or the millions in additional economic activity an expanded pre-k program generates for communities.

# of Pre-K Seats That Could Be Lost
Sen. Williams: 259 seats in 14 programs
Rep. Cruz: 170 seats in 5 programs
Rep. White: 93 kids in 2 programs

Even if it were possible, it’s unlikely that they would demand $4.5 million not to flow into their districts. So their signing of the letter is nothing less than wanting to have their cake and eat it too.  

Sen. Williams recently took to social media to address the issue. Unfortunately, that only resulted in even more confusion.

On Twitter, he claimed that families were unable to afford “healthy almond milk” because of the tax. But as families who actually drink almond milk know, distributers haven’t hiked the price on the healthy beverage because they aren’t taxed on those—only their sugar-laden and flavored variations are.

Sen. Williams also claimed not to know what Big Soda was, which is especially noteworthy because the Senator was a former Pepsi executive.

“I don’t want this to be seen as a moment where it’s me vs. the local administration and that’s why I’ve been quiet this whole time,” he said. While Sen. Williams has been quiet this whole time, the people have spoken, as have their local electeds.

Polls show a wide majority of Philadelphians, understanding what the city had to gain through the tax, accepted the risk of paying higher prices for their soda and declared that our kids were worth it.

Sen. Williams’ constituents could have benefited had he chosen to speak up at a more relevant time, like during the public debate.

As a former executive, Sen. Williams knows full well the extraordinary profit margins Big Soda enjoys, and the great lengths they go to avoid paying billions in corporate taxes by either shipping production overseas or exploiting tax havens, leaving teamsters and retailers to scramble desperately for pennies.

He, and his colleagues, could have approached Big Soda and suggested the most reasonable response. After decades of not paying their fare share of taxes, exporting good jobs overseas,  targeting the impoverished children for diabetes and obesity, the least the industry could do was absorb the tax instead of balancing their profits on the backs of small businesses and the families that depend on them. 


ACT NOW to protect quality pre-k! Just two clicks and you can add your name to the petition for City Council and state legislators. Our kids are worth it–now more than ever.

Stand up for quality pre-k!


“[President Trump] is aiming at U.S. citizen kids who have an undocumented parent, and depending how broad the reach of his order, he could deport kids who have received reduced lunches in school.” Angela Maria Kelley, Center for American Progress.



“We are proud of our successes in reducing poverty in the County, but one child living in poverty is one too many.”  Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, at this week’s Roundtable on children.

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“Our entire economy is intertwined with the fate of the mother who can’t afford not to have quality pre-K…It is dependent on our young people – both who were born here in Philly and who came here for Wharton – getting the tools they need to be fountains of economic development for Philadelphia.” Mayor Jim Kenney, speaking to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. READ THE ADDRESS