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Illinois Senate Eyes Tax on Sugary Drinks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An Illinois lawmaker wants to tax soft drinks as part of an effort to promote healthy living.

    The legislation, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Sen. Mattie Hunter, would impose a penny-per-ounce surcharge on sugary drinks that are sold in sealed containers.

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

    Money generated from the levy would be used to pay for a variety of health services and educational efforts.

    But Hunter's plan is already drawing criticism from the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, an alliance of manufacturers, retailers and union workers. They say taxing sodas would hurt the economy and cost jobs.

    "You reduce consumption, and you reduce employment," said Brian Rainville, who is 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."

    The legislation -- SB3524 -- would add $2.88 to the cost of a case of soft drinks, said Illinois Manufacturers Association Vice President Mark Denzler.

    "It's nearly a 50 percent increase in the cost of it," he said. "So folks that are scrambling to buy groceries are going to have it even harder."

    But Hunter argues that her proposal, if it's approved, would save the state money but reducing health care costs for residents.

    "My goal with this legislation is to increase awareness, improve public health and promote healthy living alternatives in an effort to save lives and money," she said.

    Other states have instituted a similar tax, but previous efforts haven't gained traction in Illinois.