Industry: Philadelphia soda tax killing sales, layoffs loom

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, file photo, soft drink and soda bottles are displayed in a refrigerator at El Ahorro market in San Francisco. After years of stamping out soda tax proposals with well-financed campaigns, Big Soda is suddenly finding itself up against bigger adversaries. In early November 2016, voters and lawmakers in five jurisdictions, including San Francisco and Chicago’s Cook County, approved special taxes on sugary drinks, with advocates chalking up the streak of victories to a shift in public attitudes. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Some Philadelphia supermarkets and beverage distributors say they’re gearing up for layoffs because the city’s new soda tax has cut beverage sales by 30 percent to 50 percent, worse than the city predicted.

An owner of six supermarkets tells The Philadelphia Inquirer he expects to cut 300 jobs, and a soft drink distributor predicts a 20 percent workforce reduction.

City officials expect business to rebound once customers get over sticker shock. They suggest the industry may be engaging in fearmongering to stop the spread of the tax to other cities.

Mayor Jim Kenney pushed through the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened and diet beverages to pay for nearly 2,000 pre-kindergarten slots and other programs. He tells the Inquirer he didn’t think it’s possible for the industry “to be any greedier.”

The tax amounts to $1.44 on a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles.

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