ABOVE PHOTO: Pepper Middle School, one of the schools chosen to close by the School District.
(Photo by Jukie Bot)
HARRISBURG– State Sen. Anthony H. Williams put another solution on the table today for children in Philadelphia, offering to boost the school district’s coffers with a pair of bills that would increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax and authorize a cigarette tax for the city.
Senate Bill 944 would authorize the City of Philadelphia to level a 10-cents-per-cigarette tax ($2 per pack) and send that revenue to the ailing School District of Philadelphia.
Senate Bill 945 would allow Philadelphia City Council to increase the drink tax from 10 percent to 15 percent. Those dollars also would also go to the district.
“Every child needs and deserves a school that fully functions, and the way things are going, few children in Philadelphia would have that this fall,” said Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware). “The district is strapped for cash and it desperately needs the revenue these so-called sin taxes would generate. Besides, we’ll sabotage the ability of our children to learn, grow and become the productive citizens we all hope they will become. And we’ll tank our city’s future in the process.”
The district is facing a $304 million deficit and a doomsday scenario that would eliminate music programs, athletics, guidance counselors, assistant principals if the money cannot be found to close that hole.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter has asked for increases in the drink tax and the creation of the cigarette tax. Williams responded with legislation that would provide the taxing authority the city needs to collect the new revenue.
“Everyone is doing what they can to come up with ideas to offer our kids a quality education,” Williams said. “This may not be a popular solution, or a perfect one. But it’s one that will directly benefit the children of this city today and keep us from condemning generations to unproductive lives, unprepared to work or function in society. That’s an outlook that would cost taxpayers billions more in the long run.”
If signed into law, SB 944 would generate $45 million during its first six months and SB 945 would raise $22 million in new revenue for schools if city council implements that levy by July 1.
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission has asked for an additional $60 million from the city, $120 million from the state and $130 million in union concessions to help close the district’s $304 million deficit.
The city’s drink tax started at 10 percent when it was created in 1994.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Williams said. “I am offering a legislative solution to immediately help some 200,000 students receive a proper education.”