LANSING — Whether you hate it, love it or couldn’t care less, everyone seems to be talking about Cook County's sugary drink tax.
The people at Vinnie Brown’s church in Lansing are no exception.
“They were talking about it at church on Sunday,” Brown, of Lansing, said laughing. “But I have to tell you something. I do not buy pop, period. Of course, for all the other people, my heart goes out to them.”
For those addicted to sweetened beverages, the penny-per-ounce tax means a 24-pack of 12-ounce cans will cost an additional $2.88.
The tax was set to go into effect Saturday, but a Cook County judge's ruling Friday granted a temporary restraining order that had been sought by Cook County retailers and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
The move pushes the effective date to July 12.
'Driving her crazy'
People interviewed last week in Lansing and Calumet City said they plan to cross the nearby state line.
Alonzo Taylor, 63, of Calumet City, said his wife — an avid Pepsi drinker — won’t stop talking about the new tax.
“It’s driving her crazy,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he has no problem driving to Northwest Indiana to pick his wife up a case of pop if it means the couple will save money.
“If she wants a soda, I’ll be more than happy to. It’ll take me five minutes to get there,” Taylor said. “A penny-per-ounce. That’s a lot of money.”
'Short drive, big savings'
Retailers in Indiana already are promoting the savings.
Strack & Van Til, the Region's largest locally owned grocery store chain, last week sent advertisements that target Illinois residents.
One advertisement reads "Short Drive. Big Savings. Shop Our Indiana Locations and Skip the Sweetened Beverage Tax." The ad lists how much people would save on various pop items.
"We hope the bordering stores will see an increase in business," said Michael Tyson, chief marketing officer for Strack & Van Til.
David Goldenberg, spokesman with the Can the Tax Coalition, said while that's great news for Indiana retailers, it's bad news for Cook County.
"This is an unfair, far-reaching tax that exists solely to raise revenue on the backs of Cook County working families. It has been a nightmare for retailers and restaurants trying to comply," he said.
When the city of Philadelphia enacted a similar sugary drink tax in January, retailers reported significant losses in not only beverage sales, but other sales as well, he said.
"What you saw were people not changing what they were drinking, but changing where they bought the stuff," he said.
Cook County officials have argued the new tax will raise about $200 million over the next year while promoting more healthy options and reduced sugary drink consumption.
Melaneice Sercye, of Lansing, last week had harsh words for the tax. She rarely drinks regular pop these days, but she loves the zero-calorie options — many of which have artificial sweeteners subject to the new tax.
“We're being overtaxed. It’s just sad. We might as well go back to England. That’s why we left England, because of taxation," she said.
She said she plans to drive across the Indiana border to Strack & Van Til.
"I'll go there in a minute for groceries," Sercye said. "I already go there for gas. I go to church (in Munster)."
Dan Olmos had placed a dozen or so chilled Pepsi products in a container of ice water Wednesday afternoon at his hot dog stand in Lansing, where he sells drinks, chips and Vienna Beef hot dogs.
The small business owner said he buys the soda through a Chicago-area distributor, Restaurant Depot.
With the new tax going into effect soon, he said he'll have to research the logistics of buying from a distributor in Indiana, and if that move could help his bottom line.
"I'm going to look into it," he said.