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Illinois Senate bill would add tax to sugary drinks

Illinois Senate bill would add tax to sugary drinks

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A proposed bill in the Illinois Senate would place a tax on sugary drinks.

MARION — A new bill introduced in the Illinois Senate would, if passed, impose a tax on sugary beverage sales in the state.

Senate Bill 9 imposes a tax on distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages, syrups or powders sold or offered for sale to a retailer for sale to a consumer. It places a penny-per-ounce tax on such products that contain more than 5 grams of caloric sweetener. 

The bill was introduced a week ago by State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights. If passed, the bill is expected to generate $560 million annually for the state.

According to a synopsis of the bill on the Illinois General Assembly website, 98 percent of revenue gathered from the tax would be added to the state's general fund. The remaining 2 percent would be placed in the Tax Compliance and Administration Fund for the administrative costs of the Department of Revenue.

If passed, the bill will take effect May 1.

The bill would also require distributors to acquire annual permits for sales.

John Rains, executive vice-president and general manager of Pepsi Mid-America in Marion, said the bill's passage would double prices for customers.

"I went to lunch today and I was talking to an owner of a restaurant and I was asking him, I said, 'Do you know that if (the bill) passes, the price you pay for your product is going to double,' and he was somewhat aware of the law but didn't know the impact," Rains said.

"He would be taxed $38.40 on a purchase that's roughly about $60. So it is devastating." 

As frequent retailers themselves, Rains said, schools might also feel the sting. 

"Schools rely on businesses in the area to support a lot of their programs and businesses won't be in a position to be as supportive," he said. "And the schools themselves if they're going to (use the products) for resale are going to be taxed." 

Overall, Rains said he would prefer legislators to focus on spending. 

"Rather than continue to put burdensome taxes on the consumers, they need to look at running the state in a more professional and businesslike manner," he said. "You just can't tax, you have to look at how you're spending money." 

As for Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute and executive director of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, the bill gets her full support.

"We're very supportive of a tax on sugary drinks like as described in SB 9, in fact we've been working on that for a few years," Bassler said.

Bassler also mentioned her hopes for legislators to use its generated revenue for community programs that promote a healthier lifestyle and reduce chronic disease and health care costs.

"We're also interested in seeing that the resources are dedicated to health," Bassler said.

"So (that will include) putting some of the resources toward community health improvements for communities, health and nutrition programs, and also funding into Medicaid."

nefeteria.brewster@thesouthern.com

618-351-5074

On Twitter: @SINefeteria
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Nefeteria Brewster is a reporter covering Marion and Williamson County.

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