A proposal by a Chicago alderman to impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary soft drinks did not get a very friendly reception from City Council members.
Alderman George Cardenas's proposal was met Wednesday with pushback from beverage producers and a lack of enthusiasm from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The mayor asked aldermen for ideas to generate more revenue in light of a massive pension payment coming due. Cardenas came up with the soda tax, which would apply to drinks with at least 5 grams of sugar per 12 ounces.
The alderman proposed a tax of one penny per ounce of each sugary drink, meaning a 64-ounce soda, for example, would cost an additional 64 cents. The tax would apply to syrup and powders as well as canned and bottled drinks.
Ald. Cardenas argues the benefit would not only be to the health of Chicago residents, particularly children, but the tax could also generate $134 million a year.
"I'd rather have this than the red light cameras that everybody hates to be honest with you," Ald. Cardenas said. "That's the type of policy that to me makes sense."
Former Chicago corporation counsel Mara Georges is now working for the American Beverage Association. She says a new tax would not withstand a legal challenge because the city has already raised taxes on soft drinks as much as state law allows.