Illinois Legislature Attempts Sugary Drink Tax Again

Dec 15, 2014

Another attempt to tax sugary drinks is expected in the upcoming Illinois legislative session. Drinks like soda and even some juice have been linked to obesity, diabetes and other problems. 

Credit Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography / "Fizzy Purple Grape Soda" (CC v. 2.0)

Elissa Bassler, with the Illinois Public Health Institute, says a plan that came up in the past year would have imposed a penny per ounce tax on the drinks.  She says the new measure will be similar:

"It's a big idea and it takes some time for people to wrap their arms around it."

Bassler says a higher cost could lead to more consumers, especially young people, choosing alternatives.

"But what I really think is important about the legislation is where the revenues from the tax go.  Because there is no silver bullet to the obesity, diabetes, heart disease epidemics.  We need to think about what we drink and that's really important.  And that's an important aspect of the legislation."

While the change could lead some people to cut back on consumption, those who don't would help pay for a variety of programs.  From helping the state cover health care costs to expanding farmers' markets and bike paths. 

About half of the 600 million dollars that could be raised would be used to help pay state health costs.  The other half could be used to promote good health through schools and community programs. 

The beverage industry has opposed the plan. It says it would impact low income individuals.

Voters in Berkeley California recently approved a penny per ounce tax on sugared drinks.  But the idea has stalled in several other locations where it has been suggested.