Kenney delivers $4 billion spending plan with call for soda tax

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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There were no major surprises in Mayor Kenney’s first budget address Thursday.

"It feels really good to be home. … I’ve spent half of my life in this chamber," said the new mayor, who served in City Council for 23 years.

Then he delved into the details of his more than $4 billion spending plan.

He told his former colleagues that a tax on sugary drinks is the only way to raise the funding for citywide pre-K, fixing recreation centers and libraries, as well as bolstering the sagging city pension fund.

"There is simply nowhere else to find this revenue," he said. "We all know we can’t raise property taxes again. We’ve already raised them four times in the last five years."

Despite the call for a new tax, City Council members said they will seriously consider the spending plan.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, an outspoken education supporter, still has reservations about the tax, saying it could cost jobs — including hers — if it passes.

"I’m worried about labor, and I’m worried about labor because we should be," she said. "And like I continue to tell people around here, I like my job and I know how people feel about taxes."

Council President Darrell Clarke said the proposal deserves a thorough vetting before anyone makes a decision.

"I don’t think there is any appetite to raise real estate taxes for anything, even schools, which has been the case for the past several years," Clarke said. "We have a fund balance that allows us to provide core services to the city of Philadelphia."

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