Sneaker tax: Illinois Lawmaker wants new fee on gym shoes

2013-01-29T15:07:00Z 2013-01-29T17:48:03Z Sneaker tax: Illinois Lawmaker wants new fee on gym shoesKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
January 29, 2013 3:07 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | The cost of a new pair of basketball shoes could jump by 25-cents under a proposal floated this week by an Illinois lawmaker.

State Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, wants to create a new tax that would generate an estimated $3 million annually for a youth job preparation program. He says the added cost likely would go unnoticed by most consumers, while helping finance a program for kids during tight budget times.

"Everywhere, funding is challenged," Davis said. "I see it as a uniquely creative way of helping youth."

Under the proposal, consumers buying any kind of athletic shoe would pay an extra 25 cents. Proceeds from the new tax would be earmarked for the state’s YouthBuild programs

There are a handful of YouthBuild programs throughout Illinois. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16 to 24 work full-time for 6 to 24 months toward their GEDs or high school diplomas while learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities, according to its website, www.youthbuild.org.

Davis said he decided an athletic shoe tax would be a good fit for the YouthBuild program because younger Illinoisans are major consumers of shoes.

"Who wears athletic shoes the most? It's probably kids," he said.

The proposal, however, is no slam dunk.

Rob Karr, senior vice president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the organization will fight the proposal because it would create an unnecessary amount of additional paperwork for store owners.

“It imposes significant administrative burdens on the retailer,” Karr said.

Imposing special taxes on specific products is not a new trend in state government. Illinoisans have been paying a $2.50 fee on tire purchases for years. There also are taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and car rentals.

Last year saw two new fees added to the state’s roster of taxes. One would add a new entry fee tax at strip clubs to pay for domestic violence programs. The other would add a new $2 fee on license plates to help finance improvements to Illinois' financially strapped state parks.

Davis himself owns at least five pairs of shoes that may qualify — golf shoes, baseball cleats, two pairs of basketball high-tops and running shoes.

For now, the proposal is somewhat vague on exactly what constitutes an athletic shoe.

"I think that's something we'll need to negotiate," Davis said.

The legislation is House Bill 978.

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