Soda tax proposal could cause political fizz-ures

2014-02-17T17:30:00Z 2014-02-17T23:35:15Z Soda tax proposal could cause political fizz-uresT.J. Fowler Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
February 17, 2014 5:30 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Illinois shoppers could find themselves paying extra for soft drinks under a proposed statewide soda tax.

The new plan would add an extra penny on every ounce of sugary drinks sold in sealed containers, along with the syrups and powders used to flavor them.

The tax is part of a broader plan to promote healthy living in Illinois, according to state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, who sponsored the legislation. Revenue from the tax would go toward a range of health services and education initiatives.

“Numerous studies have linked excessive consumption of sugary soft drinks to obesity,” Hunter said in an email. “We as a state need to do a better job of educating the public and children in particular about this issue and the health risks.”

The proposal has drawn criticism from the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes – an alliance of manufacturers, retailers and union workers who say the tax would harm the economy and kill jobs in Illinois.

“You reduce consumption, and you reduce employment,” said Brian Rainville, a spokesman for Teamsters Joint Council 25 in Chicago and northwest Indiana. “If there’s less being made and distributed, there’s fewer people doing those jobs."

In 2011, a report by the Cook County Department of Public Health recommended that legislators impose a tax of two cents per ounce on all sugar-sweetened beverages.

Though similar measures have won approval in other states, Illinois lawmakers have been unable to get the tax off the ground.

Others say the tax would impose a burden on families trying to purchase groceries.

“This tax adds $2.88 to a (24-pack) case of soda,” said Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association. “It’s nearly a 50 percent increase in the cost of it.”

But Hunter said the plan would save the state money by reducing health care costs.

“Medical expenses associated with obesity cost taxpayers more than $100 million annually,” she said.

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