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Lawmakers May Consider Soda Tax
Lawmakers will be returning to Springfield in January. One possible topic is a proposed tax on sugary sweetened drinks. It would increase the cost of every ounce of soda sold in Illinois.
The bill is by no means final. But it would add 20 cents in tax to a bottle of soda, and $2.88 to a case. The idea is to help pay for the costs of treating obesity in Illinois.
"62 percent of Illinois residents are classified as obese," Tom Hughes of the Illinois Public Health Association said. "One in five children these days are classified as obese. Plus, from obesity, we get cardiovascular disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes."
The Illinois Public Health Association is one of several groups pushing a 1 cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. That breaks down to 12 cents on every can and $1.44 on each 12-pack.
Proponents of the measure believe it could generate $600 million its first year.
"That money would be put back into local health departments, into health education, into local wellness activities, as well as back into Medicaid, because about $800 million per year in Medicaid is related to obesity," Hughes said.
Many business groups are worried about the potential impact of this type of tax.
"Any time any retailer, that has its product that they're trying to deliver to consumers at the lowest price possible, that just means that number one, it's not good for their business, and it's not good for their consumers, either," Todd Maisch of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said.
Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to pitch a new capital plan during his State of the State address. While dealing with the potential loss of the temporary tax increase, some fear he may latch onto ideas like this as the state scrambles to increase revenue.
"State government has not had a lot of discipline," Maisch said. "If they want to fund something, they're happy to go ahead and grab the money from wherever they can, I think to the detriment of the economy. So we would certainly be resistant to some kind of unrelated tax going to roads and bridges. We think that's just bad policy."
Support from residents for this type of tax may not be that strong yet, either.
"I don't think it would be a very great idea because we don't really need to pay more money than what we do on soda and stuff," one shopper we talked to said.
"Honestly I don't know if it's because I don't drink soda a lot, but I don't find an issue with it," another said. "Because it's one cent. So it doesn't make that big of a difference for the individual person. But over time, as it builds up, you could really--the government could really benefit from it."
One thing to keep in mind is that the tax would be paid by distributors. So when you shop for sweet drinks, it would already be factored into the price. Proponents believe that would make sure consumers know how much more the drink costs, before they head to the cashier.
According to the Illinois Public Health Institute, the plan is to put half the revenue into obesity prevention, and the other half toward Medicaid. They are currently adjusting the legislation to try to ensure that the revenue wouldn't be diverted to pay other state bills.