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State Senator Starts Push for Soda Tax in Illinois

The new proposal would tack on a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared drinks.
February 19, 2014

​SPRINGFIELD – A state senator wants to promote healthy living in Illinois by taxing sugary beverages sold in sealed containers, the Herald & Review reports. The tax would also apply to powders and syrups that flavor drinks.

State Sen. Mattie Hunter from Chicago sponsored the bill that would tax sugared beverages at a penny per ounce. Revenue from the soda tax would fund a variety of education initiatives and health services.

“Numerous studies have linked excessive consumption of sugary soft drinks to obesity,” said Hunter. “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.”

Already, the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, a group of union workers, manufacturers and retailers, has come out in opposition against such a tax, claiming it would hurt the economy and reduce jobs in the state. “You reduce consumption, and you reduce employment,” said Brian Rainville, a spokesman for Teamsters Joint Council 25. “If there’s less being made and distributed, there are fewer people doing those jobs. Politicians are always talking about creating middle-class jobs, and these are those jobs. These are the good, middle-class jobs that people want to create.”

Illinois lawmakers have attempted to add a tax on sugared beverages before, but the bills didn’t gain much traction. Opponents point to the burden on families as one reason for keeping such a tax out of the state.

“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% increase in the cost of it. So folks that are scrambling to buy groceries are going to have it even harder.”

The idea of a tax on soft drinks keeps popping up across the country. San Francisco is considering such a tax, while a Connecticut mayor is pushing for a statewide soda tax.