PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia retailers and their beverage industry partners, already feeling the impact of the controversial beverage tax that took effect in the city at the start of the new year, have launched a grassroots campaign in an effort to bring about its repeal.
The campaign, "Ax the Bev Tax," seeks to educate consumers about the tax and mobilize them to contact their elected officials with their concerns about the measure's effects. Using a combination of social media, "on-the-ground" efforts and strategically placed collateral materials, the campaign is already nearly 20,000 members strong on Facebook, according to Alex Baloga, vice president of external communications for the Camp Hill-based Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association.
It’s Baloga's belief that the far-reaching effects of the beverage tax were not made clear to either the average consumer or lawmakers. It was pitched as a tax to raise revenue for pre-kindergarten, parks and recreation projects, and other vital programs in Philadelphia. What was less visible was the fact that the revenue-generating tax would apply to more than just soda. As it stands now, the tax also applies to Gatorade, flavored waters, plant-based "milks," teas, lemonades and other beverages, totaling between 3,000 and 4,000 products, Baloga explained.
This has ostensibly led to layoffs at businesses dependent on beverage sales and beverage companies, including PepsiCo and Canada Dry, which have laid off 100 workers and 25 workers, respectively, since the tax took effect. Baloga and others are concerned that consumers are not only going outside of the city limits for their beverage needs, but for their other grocery needs as well.
While Ax the Bev Tax's primary focus is repealing the measure, the initiative also hopes to find new solutions to raise funds for the critical programs in Philadelphia that are in need of revenue.
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