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Judge Upholds Legality Of Soda Tax, Dismisses Suit

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia judge has upheld the legality of the city's sweetened beverage tax, dismissing a suit that sought to stop the tax from taking effect.

The decision clears the way for the city to begin collecting the tax January 1.

Phila. Becomes First Major U.S City To Approve Sugary Drink Tax

In a major victory for Mayor Jim Kenney, Judge Gary Glazer has ruled the 1-and-a-half cents per ounce beverage tax is allowed by state and federal law-- rejecting all three arguments raised by lawyers for distributors and retailers who oppose the tax.

He says, because the tax will be levied on distributors, or retailers, not on purchasers, it does not violate federal food stamp law, the state tax uniformity law and does not duplicate the state sales tax on sweetened beverages.

Mayor Jim Kenney released the following statement on the ruling: "Today is much more than a simple vindication of the legal principles on which the tax is based. It is victory for Philadelphians, who have waited far too long for investment in their education system and in their neighborhoods. I urge the soda industry to accept the Judge's ruling and do the right thing for the children of Philadelphia, many of whom struggle in the chilling grip of pervasive poverty. The industry has chosen not to challenge beverage taxes in other municipalities and there is no reason to continue pursuing it here. Regardless of their decision, the City will not stop pursuing what those kids need most – quality pre-K, Community Schools, and better parks, libraries and rec centers."

Shanin Specter, of Kline & Specter, PC, representing the plaintiffs in the against the Philadelphia over the soft drink tax, issued the following statement in response to a judge's dismissal of the complaint: "We shall appeal."

The tax is expected to raise about $90 million a year, which will be used to pay for the expansion of pre-kindergarten, renovations at parks, rec centers and libraries and community schools, all keys to the mayor's anti-poverty program.

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