By Rushdi Mohamed
The latest tax proposal coming out of City Hall is unfair, untimely and will effectively do little outside of drive jobs and business out of Philadelphia. This week, members of the community, business, restaurant and store owners, and local beverage industry representatives gathered to testify in front of the City Council regarding the so-called sugar-sweetened beverage tax.
Mayor Nutter’s proposed tax on soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages is not the right approach to solving Philadelphia’s budget woes and it definitely won’t do anything to curb obesity. Intentionally or not, the tax would have a negative impact on employment that would echo throughout the grocers’ markets, convenience stores and the restaurant and beverage industries.
A tax like this would squeeze the budgets of Philadelphia families, and hit low- and middle-class income earners the hardest. Hardworking families are watching every penny, saving in an effort to hopefully one day buy home, car or send their children to college. At a time when Philadelphia is facing more than 10 percent unemployment and struggling through a disastrous economy, raising taxes on grocery items shouldn’t be an option.
And truly, it is a slippery slope. After the government reaches into our grocery carts and attempts to dictate, with taxes, what we should or should not eat or drink, what’s next on their list? Will they start taxing other items? Philadelphians don’t need – and definitely don’t want – the City government telling them what to eat or drink.
A tax like Mayor Nutter’s will drive business out of Philadelphia into the neighboring communities. Which might be good for them, but it’s terrible for Philadelphia restaurant owners, retailers and the beverage industry that support jobs in the area. We need to remain competitive with our surrounding areas so that we can continue to keep the good-paying jobs that we already have and, in the future, ideally be able to add new jobs.
As a member of the Philadelphia business community, I believe I speak for all of us — not just restaurant owners, but corner store owners, sandwich shop owners and the beverage industry here in the city— when I say that this proposal to tax soft drinks and other beverages is bad for business. We all understand that the city budget issues are serious and need to be addressed, but putting the burden of balancing the budget on the backs of hardworking Philadelphia families and businesses is unfair. There has to be a better way.
Mr. Mohamed is owner of Cousin’s Markets.