City Council Debates Chicago Soda Tax

A proposal to tax sugary drinks in Chicago is being debated by officials, but some say the tax will negatively impact area businesses.

The tax on pop and other sugary drinks proposed by 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas got a lukewarm receiption during a hearing at City Hall on Wednesday.

The tax would include drinks with at least 5 grams of sugar per 12 ounces.

Those who favor the proposal say it’s a health decision, but others say it would hurt restaurants and grocery stores.

“From a dietary standpoint, soda alone should not be part of you caloric intake on a daily basis,” Cardenas said. “It’s just not good for you.”

It’s not the first time Cardenas has proposed the tax. In 2012, he said he wanted to hold hearings on the effects of sugary beverages on obesity and obtain testimony from medical experts after proposing a sugary drink tax ranging from 15 to 30 cents a “pop” to an extra penny per ounce.

The latest proposal comes as the city faces a deep budget hole, and the extra penny per ounce could bring in $135 million.

The soft drink tax may be an alternative to hiking garbage collection fees, another option being considered by the city, but one that several aldermen have opposed.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t seem opposed to the idea, but also didn’t commit his support.

“Changing people’s behavior can be a big savings financially as well as improve health care,” Emanuel said.

Still, some question whether the tax will be effective.

“I don’t believe and studies will show a tax like this will have a positive effect in reducing obesity and diabetes,” said Omar Duque with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Emanuel is expected to reveal his budget in two weeks.

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