In late February, two Illinois politicians introduced bills (HB 5690 and SB 3524) which would add a ‘penny-per-ounce’ excise tax on beverages like soda. This is not the first time such legislation has been proposed; similar legislation was introduced in 2011, but had a short life in the Illinois House.
One of the sponsors, State Representative Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) stated this legislation could spur over $600 million each year, which would be utilized to pay for Medicaid expenses and other health expenses.
However, people across the state are wondering: What would this cost Illinois? Supporters paint a rosy picture of how implementing a soda tax would impact the state, but it turns out there are serious implications for consumers.
Business advocates are already worrying over employees who lose their jobs if customers quit buying soda due to higher costs, decreasing revenue. In addition, the consumption of soft drinks has decreased 12 percent over the past decades, but obesity rates continued to rise; people are getting their calories elsewhere and soda isn’t the sole cause for obesity that activists like to demonize it as.
More importantly, soft drinks in Illinois are already taxed 6.25 percent, and in Chicago, they’re taxed an additional 3 percent, a total of 9.25 percent! If the proposed soda tax passes through the legislature, consumers would be taxed twice for buying soda. If they live in Chicago, they’re taxed three times. Most Americans oppose a soda tax, and even some supporters would concede that being taxed three times for picking up a 12 pack of soda is too much.
The intention of this bill, improving the public health of Illinois, is noble, but a soda tax is not the correct policy to take. Soda taxes have failed to reduce obesity in the past and the policy simply hurts consumers.
If Illinois is serious about improving public health and reducing obesity--it starts with education, not rules and regulations! At the end of the day, people can, and should, decide for themselves what to eat and feed their families without government intrusion or oversight.
(Photo credit to Dan)