Supporters say soda tax an 'uphill battle'

2014-02-20T04:30:00Z 2014-02-20T05:18:28Z Supporters say soda tax an 'uphill battle'T.J. Fowler Times Bureau The Quad-City Times
February 20, 2014 4:30 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD — Even with the backing of several major medical groups, supporters of a proposed soft drink tax say their legislation faces a serious uphill battle.

Their plan would add a penny-per-ounce excise tax on any sugar-sweetened beverages sold in sealed containers and would use the estimated $600 million in additional revenue to fund health services, education and an expansion of Medicaid's prevention services and dental care.

One of the measure's sponsors, state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, said the proposal will be "very difficult to pass" because of resistance from consumers and the state's business community.

"People will pay a little more," she said. "It's true. But that's just to offset the burden of those beverages in terms of health and health care costs here in Illinois."

American Heart Association spokesman Mark Peysakhovich said the legislation is just the first step in what likely will be a very lengthy fight.

"We're not kidding ourselves," he said. "This is the first year of a significant campaign. I compare this quite a bit to our work on tobacco taxes. The industry has the dream team.

"It's going to take time to get the message across, but we feel that the public will finally support us. Anybody playing defense on this issue has already lost."

The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity reports that one in three children in Illinois is obese, and nearly two in three adults are overweight.

The group predicts that in one year, the tax would reduce obesity among children by 9.3 percent and obesity among adults by 5.2 percent. It estimates that these changes would come with more than $150 million in savings on obesity-related health care costs.

"We know our communities are suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer," state Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Chicago, said. "It's critically important to address these health concerns and generate revenue to invest in solutions to these complex problems ... We can't afford not to pass this bill."

Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, part of the Illinois Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, said the economic cost of the tax would be too high.

He argued that it would kill jobs for farmers, corn processors, packagers and delivery drivers in the state, because of reduced soda consumption.

But new research from the University of Illinois at Chicago says that soda taxes actually increase private- and public-sector employment.

The study shows that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would shift consumer demand toward non-sugar-sweetened products, rather than eliminating it altogether.

Additionally, the report says the increased tax revenue allows governments to spend more, creating new job opportunities in the public sector.

The researchers estimate that a 20 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would create 4,509 new jobs in Illinois.

Denzler called the study "completely flawed" and said consumers would simply go across state lines to get soda.

"You already have lower rates for cigarettes and gasoline in Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin," he said. "If you increase the price of a case of soda by nearly three dollars, you're going to have Illinois consumers going across state lines to buy the product."

Hunter argued that soda's health impact on the poor is more important than the possibility of higher soda prices in the state.

"I'll tell you what hurts poor people," she said. "The extra marketing that these drinks use in poor and minority communities — that's what hurts us. The extra deaths from heart disease in poor communities, the lack of safe places to exercise and eat in poor communities, the cuts in Medicaid."

The legislation is House Bill 5690 and Senate Bill 3524.

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. Maureen Beach
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    Maureen Beach - February 21, 2014 9:38 am
    It’s true that such taxes infringe on consumer choices. And, frankly, once politicians start imposing taxes on grocery items, where will these taxes begin and end? Plus, people are perfectly capable of making these individual decisions based on their own unique circumstances. Government intervention is unwarranted, unwelcome, and it won’t help health either: http://bit.ly/mmmpt. - Maureen Beach, American Beverage Association
  2. Maureen Beach
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    Maureen Beach - February 21, 2014 9:38 am
    As this article reports, the proposed soda tax faces an “uphill battle” when it comes to passage. In other regions of the country, similar efforts have failed to gain traction, and in fact have been soundly defeated. Why? Because the premise that soda taxes will help health is fundamentally flawed. No single food, beverage or ingredient is the culprit driving complex health conditions ranging from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer – and it’s overly simplistic and wholly misleading to suggest so. Many risk factors come into play with respect to each of these conditions, including genetics, for example.

    What can help? Education can help change health behaviors, whereas regulation will not. To this point, we agree with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) which states that targeting specific nutrients or foods can cause consumer confusion and that the overall diet is the most important focus to healthy eating: http://bit.ly/1bHGlrP. AND goes on to say that incentives rather than restrictions are a more beneficial approach to promote healthy lifestyles. We couldn’t agree more that a well-rounded approach to health education is a far more effective means of helping people adopt more balanced, active lifestyles. - Maureen Beach, American Beverage Association
  3. senor citizen
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    senor citizen - February 21, 2014 7:23 am
    A page taken from Bloomberg's book, your government controllers attempting to do good by yet another sin tax.
  4. Kickin
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    Kickin - February 20, 2014 3:19 pm
    They create subsidies for the farm corps to create cheap corn syrup. That makes the junk food cheaper then they tax it on the selling side to create revenue. Stop the subsidies and let the prices go up on their own. But the real reason is not people's health
  5. Klaatu
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    Klaatu - February 20, 2014 2:28 pm
    Communist Barry Obama has his FCC trying to step into the news industry now. Wants to "regulate" news and content. There isn't a smidgen of difference between him and Josef Stalin, not a smidgen. Give him enough time and he will have internment and re-education camps.
  6. Got dents
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    Got dents - February 20, 2014 1:59 pm
    Enough with new taxes already. The politicians say they are concerned about the public's health. That is a bunch of hype. They generate new taxes by hiding the fact that the tax money will end up in the general funds. Taxes never go to the programs they were intended for. Look at the motor vehicle registration fee increases in the last few years. $1.00 of the fee was to pay for state police vehicles $2.00 was supposed to fund state parks. The majority of the fee was for road maintenance and improvements. None of the money made it to the coofers they were intended for. State parks have increased their usage fees because of the lack of state funds. The DMV registration fees were raided to pay for state employees pension funds. Illinois is now looking for ways to fund road repairs. Why are school systems broke? Where is the money from lottery tickets and casino taxes. What about sales tax increases to pay for our schools? It ends up in the Illinois general funds and never goes where intended unless it has something to do with Chicago. This soft drink tax is another Illinois Democrats ploy to generate more taxes out of the public and hide the facts what it will be used for. The fact is it will end up paying for all the people who are now enrolled in Medicaid.
  7. Kickin
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    Kickin - February 20, 2014 11:18 am
    Qcman is a comedian...

    Which party is it that wants to regulate the fatty foods you can or cannot eat?
    Which party is it that wants to ban a entire company (chick fil a) from coming to their cities due to the owners personal beliefs?
    Which party is it that wants to ignore the second amendment and take guns from the hands of law abiding citizens?
    Which party is it that wants the FCC to take radio shows like Rush Limbaugh OFF THE AIR for saying things they don't agree with?
    Which party is it that wants to have people thrown in jail for language that is offensive to others?
    Which party is it that pushed laws that enable minority races to get college admissions over non minorities that may be more qualified?
    Which party pushed a law that FORCES people to pay out of pocket for healthcare or pay a fine?
    Which party pushed laws trying to FORCE religious institutions to provide contraception?
    The answer to all the above questions is DEMOCRATS!
  8. atlasshrugged
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    atlasshrugged - February 20, 2014 10:12 am
    More "caring" liberals attempting to take away your liberties through oppressive taxation in order to control your behavior.
  9. qcman
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    qcman - February 20, 2014 6:44 am
    They learned it from the Republican party.
  10. Klaatu
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    Klaatu - February 19, 2014 11:26 pm
    They should change the name from democrat party to Control party.
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