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Big Philadelphia Parks Bond on Hold While Funding Debated in Court

The Rebuild initiative in Philadelphia depends on funding generated by a 1.5 cents-an-ounce tax on sugary beverages. The tax is in effect, but $300 million in bonds have to wait for a court decision about the tax.
March 31, 2018, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Ritu Manoj Jethani

Malcolm Burnley reports on the ongoing legal fight over a 1.5 cents-an-ounce tax on sugary beverages in the city of Philadelphia. The case is under consideration at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Meanwhile a $500 million capital investment program—known as the Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild) initiative—for the city's public parks, rec centers, playgrounds, and libraries hangs in the balance.  

"For more than a year, Rebuild has hung in suspended animation on account of a lawsuit backed by the beverage industry that’s challenging the constitutionality of the tax in court," writes Burnley. "City Hall has refused to issue the anticipated $300 million in bonds for Rebuild until (and if) the court upholds the constitutionality of the citywide levy, the financial lynchpin of the ambitious effort to better public spaces in neighborhoods that haven’t experienced much public investment in decades."

There are other causes for concern with the tax, according to Burnley. First among them is the failure o the tax to hit revenue targets in 2017. Lower than expected revenue is likely to affect the size of capital investments in the future. The article includes more details about the politics surrounding the soda tax and what the controversies mean for the city's investments in its public resources.

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Published on Thursday, March 8, 2018 in PlanPhilly
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