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State Rep From Allegheny County Mounts Challenge To Philadelphia's Soda Tax

Matt Rourke
In this March 16, 2017 photo, sugar tax stickers are posted by sweetened beverages at the IGA supermarket in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia.

State Representative Mark Mustio (R-44) of Allegheny County is fronting a charge to repeal Philadelphia's soda tax, and prevent similar actions from taking place elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Philadelphia's tax on sugary drinks has been in place since January 2017, and has faced controversy since its inception. Opponents, including Mustio, say it violates the Sterling Act, which prevents cities of the first class from taxing items twice. Philadelphia is Pennsylvania's only first-class city.

These opponents say soda is already covered under Pennsylvania's sales tax, while supporters say the non-retail side of the business is what is taxed.

Mustio said Philadelphia should retroactively go through the legislative process if they want a soda tax, instead of using their first-class city privileges to side-step it.

"If [Philadelphia] wants that authority, then they should come and ask for specific legislation and we can debate that as we do any other piece of legislation," he said. "Having hearings, having people testify on the need for it."

The Representative said the bill also creates confusion for people and businesses moving to Pennsylvania expecting uniformity.

"They're going to want to have some consistency in knowing that when they make an investment in a home, or make an investment in a business, they know what the taxes are going to be and what they're likely going to be in the future," Mustio said.

Mustio said he hasn't heard rumblings of a similar soda tax being considered in western Pennsylvania, and as a city of the second class Pittsburgh would not be able to enact a soda tax.

House Bill 2241 is scheduled for a final vote this week.