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How every City Council member voted on the soda tax, and why

Here’s a breakdown of how every Councilperson voted and their explanation for why.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. Friday

The soda tax passed yesterday, with 13 Council members voting in favor and four voting against it. Council’s three Republicans opposed the measure, as did Democrat Maria Quiñones-Sánchez.

The process of passing this tax was a long one, with many members who originally opposed it changing their minds in the end. To clarify everyone’s position, here’s a breakdown of how every Councilperson voted and their explanation for why. The explanations come from a combination of statements given after the tax passed yesterday and others given to Billy Penn this morning.

District council members

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City Council

Council President Darrell Clarke

Where he represents: District 5 – Parts of North Philly, Fairmount, Fishtown, Kensington, Strawberry Mansion and Center City

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: City Council approved a budget package that provides revenue for essential services and makes bold investments toward a future of shared health and prosperity. In a time of strong economic recovery for an elite few, government must extend opportunities to those facing obstacles not of their own making. No city or society can achieve true greatness if the challenges of children born into poverty or into communities that have historically suffered from discrimination are not addressed.

“Much has been made by the media of the contentiousness of this budget process, but tension between the executive and legislature is both healthy and by design. I congratulate Mayor Kenney on his first budget, and I thank my 16 colleagues on Council for asking the tough questions. The final amended package is fiscally responsible and progressive.”

Did he change his mind?: Somewhat. Clarke originally opposed the soda tax at three cents but had favored a broader-based tax since last month.

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City Council

Majority Leader Bobby Henon

Where he represents: District 6 – Parts of Port Richmond, Tacony, Frankford, Mayfair, Holmesburg and Northeast Philly

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “For me, the benefits of the tax are too great not to support Mayor Kenney’s bold vision for a stronger Philadelphia. I believe that pre-k, community schools and rebuilding our community infrastructure are truly worthy initiatives that will give Philadelphia’s children the best opportunity to succeed in life.”

Did he change his mind?: No. Henon supported the tax from the early days.

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City Council

Minority Leader Brian O’Neill

Where he represents: District 10 – Parts of Northeast Philly

Party: Republican

Vote: No

Why: O’Neill has not responded to a request for comment.

Did he change his mind?: No. He was against it since Kenney proposed it.

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Councilman Mark Squilla

Where he represents: District 1 – Parts of South Philly east of Broad Street, Pennsport, Old City, Society Hill, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Kensington and Port Richmond

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “The majority of the residents of the 1st Council district were in favor of the soda tax for three reasons. The first is that it will hopefully reduce the amount of soda consumed in the city and therefore decrease the amount of sugar intake so people will be healthier.   Secondly, the tax will fund three major initiatives the my constituents strongly support (Pre – K, Community Schools, rebuild for our Parks, Rec facilities, Libraries, etc.).  The third reason is that it will be a choice for residents to not buy sweetened beverage because they do not agree with the tax;  or buy them and support the programs funded by the tax.  I am elected to represent the people in my district and they have overwhelmingly reached out to me in favor of the proposal.”

Did he change his mind?: Squilla never publicly made his intentions certain one way or the other in the run-up to the vote, but had mentioned creating a tax that would have less of an effect on a single industry.

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Councilman Kenyatta Johnson

Where he represents: District 2 – Parts of Center City, Graduate Hospital, Point Breeze, Grays Ferry, South Philly west of Broad Street and Southwest Philly

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “Universal Pre-K, Recreation facilities and community schools are all issues that are at the heart of improving the quality of life for our most precious resources: our children. This is purely about the kids.”

Did he change his mind?: Johnson didn’t publicly share his opinions on the tax before the vote.

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City Council

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell

Where she represents: District 3 – Parts of West and Southwest Philadelphia

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why:  “A 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax increase on soft drinks will have a smaller negative impact on businesses and consumers; be more widely spread among consumers at both ends of the income spectrum; raise the funds necessary to make historic reinvestments in our young people and public spaces; and protect the City from uncertainty by increasing the General Fund balance.”

Did she change her mind?: Yes. Blackwell even stood with a group who opposed the soda tax during a rally.

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City Council

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.

Where he represents: District 4 – Parts of Roxborough, Manayunk, Overbrook, Northwest and West Philly

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “I will always be a yes vote when it comes to our city’s children.  Access to Pre-k and the revitalization of our parks, recreation centers and libraries are initiatives that will only enhance our city and its citizens. I was on board early and will continue to be a staunch supporter of these initiatives moving forward.”

Did he change his mind?: No. Jones announced his support for the tax last month when he said in a Council session how he thought the need to support pre-K was greater than the possible problems of the tax.

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City Council

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez

Where she represents: District 7 – Parts of North Philly including Hunting Park, Kensington and Frankford

Party: Democrat

Vote: No

Why: “I fully support Pre K, community schools, and the Rebuild neighborhood investments, but I believe that these programs, which still have not been fully planned, could have been funded without a regressive tax that falls heaviest on poor communities of color.  I have spent eight years working on progressive business tax reform policies for Philadelphia, and to support this tax would have been like reversing my position on my own work.”

Did she change her mind?: No. Quiñones-Sánchez called the soda tax regressive from the beginning and opposed it.

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Councilwoman Cindy Bass

Where she represents: District 8 – Parts of Northwest Philly, Germantown and North Philly

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “I was among the members who expressed reservations about the regressive nature of the original soda tax proposal, which would have generated funds for universally beneficial programs. I’m proud to be part of a legislative body that, year after year, through due diligence and hard work, delivers strong and progressive spending plans to the Administration. I look forward to working with the Administration to ensure that these initiatives create family-sustaining jobs for Philadelphia residents.”

Did she change her mind?: Somewhat. Bass had reservations but didn’t explicitly say she didn’t want the tax.

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City Council

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker

Where she represents: District 9 – Parts of North and Northwest Philly

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “Virtually everyone was in support of the proposed initiatives – universal pre-k, rebuilding rec centers and libraries and community schools – but the challenge was finding the funds. Council went through a careful examination of several funding options, and ultimately the beverage tax that Council passed received the most consensus. I applaud my colleagues and the Administration for reaching a tough, but much-needed compromise.”

Did she change her mind?: Not really. Parker questioned the follow-through on Kenney’s pre-K plan but didn’t publicly call out the soda tax.

At-large council members

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Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown

Where she represents: The entire city

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “Thanks to City Council’s diligence and sharp questioning, we will soon send Mayor Kenney a budget plan that is ultimately more equitable, more sustainable, and smarter public health policy,” Councilwoman Reynolds Brown said. “That is exactly why the legislative process exists: To shape better informed policy that encapsulates the ideas and concerns of the people we represent.”

Did she change her mind?: Yes. Reynolds Brown proposed a container tax instead of the soda tax.

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City Council

Councilman Allan Domb

Where he represents: The entire city

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “I think the mayor and the council president did a good job and at the end of the day, they both led us through a good process. I would have preferred no tax. At the end of the day, based on the initiatives that the mayor pushed forward, pre-k, parks and rec — pre k-is number one in my mind. Pre-k can help lift people out of poverty and it’s worth every investment we can make. What really swayed me to vote for it was the administration’s commitment this year to collect the delinquent taxes and make necessary collections in OPA. Those stories, to me, are bigger than the soda tax. They signal that this administration is serious about government efficiencies and collecting the delinquent taxes has tremendous potential in dollars every year and so does fixing OPA.”

Did he change his mind?: Not really. Domb harped on the need to better collect delinquent taxes throughout this process but never expressed any major problems with a soda tax. He also suggested last month diet sodas should be taxed, too, and a 1.5 cent tax would be ideal.

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City Council

Councilman Derek Green

Where he represents: The entire city

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “After considering the impact on small businesses, and low and moderate income citizens, I ultimately decided to make an investment in our children and neighbors.  This investment will also spur economic development and improve the health and lives of the people of our City.”

Did he change his mind?: Green never expressed public support or opposition to the soda tax.

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City Council

Councilman Bill Greenlee

Where he represents: The entire city

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “I congratulate Mayor Kenney – a longtime colleague and friend – on an engaging and ultimately successful inaugural budget process. I also thank every member of Council, and our hardworking and talented staff, for producing a final budget that is more fiscally responsible and will truly move our City forward.”

Did he change his mind?: Somewhat. He questioned the tax during a Council hearing in late May and seemed to be more in favor of a container tax.

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City Council

Councilwoman Helen Gym

Where she represents: The entire city

Party: Democrat

Vote: Yes

Why: “I have worked for decades to uplift the public spaces of our community. This was a central part of my campaign, and I am proud to say our City is delivering on that promise. This year’s budget is a historic investment in citywide, neighborhood-level initiatives that will transform communities and change lives. From our public schools to parks and libraries and recreation centers to Pre-K – all of our communities will share in a brighter future for Philadelphia

“In particular, I wanted to highlight the importance of Pre-K. We know that Pre-K has clear and compelling benefits for children—and every child in our city deserves to have this invaluable head start. But this isn’t just an education initiative; it’s also an economic development initiative that especially can support women who are heads of their household. When women and families have quality care options for their children, they have the freedom to go back to work.

“I am proud to serve with a Mayor and Council leadership who collaborated, negotiated and worked together to make this possible, and I believe it is a sign of good things to come. It’s an honor to be part of it.”

Did she change her mind?: No. She didn’t speak publicly against the soda tax and stressed the importance of funding pre-K.

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City Council

Councilman David Oh

Where he represents: The entire city

Party: Republican

Vote: No

Why: Oh’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Did he change his mind?: No. Oh expressed concern at the soda tax and wanted more information about the pre-K program.

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City Council

Councilman Al Taubenberger

Where he represents: The entire city

Party: Republican

Vote: No

Why: Taubenberger’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Did he change his mind?: No. Taubenberger was long against the soda tax and also joined an anti-soda tax rally.

 

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