Some businessmen oppose soft drink tax proposal

SPRINGFIELD – Overnight, the retail price for a two-liter soft drink in Illinois could jump nearly 70 cents while a 12 pack of soda could increase $1.44, some businessmen say. Two bills have been introduced in the Illinois House and Senate to impose a penny-per-ounce surcharge on sugar-sweetened drinks that are sold in sealed containers. Opposition to the tax comes from every corner of the state and includes consumers, civic organizations, businesses and labor.

“The burden of this regressive tax on soft drinks will affect Illinois families who are already paying too much of their income on taxes. Consumers do not need the government telling them what to put in their shopping cart,” said Trevor Borowiak, president Borowiak’s IGA. Borowiak operates eight IGA stores in Southern Illinois include locations in Albion, Carterville, Centralia, Grayville, Lawrenceville, Marion, Mt. Carmel, and Mt. Vernon.

The two laws imposing the tax are Senate Bill 3524 introduced by Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, and House Bill 5690 by Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston. Soft drinks in the state are already subject to a 6.25 percent tax compared to ‘qualifying food and drugs,’ which are taxed at one percent. The legislation would raise the cost of soda, juice drinks, sports drinks and teas. “It’s a senseless tax since it will drive down the volume upon which it depends to raise revenue,” said John Rains, Pepsi MidAmerica executive vice president & general manager. “Not only will this affect the soft drink companies, but as it depresses sales, it will pose a significant impact on convenience stores, restaurants, and grocers — basically everyone serving soft drinks.” Pepsi MidAmerica is based in Marion, Ill.

The Illinois soft drink beverage industry currently provides 114,126 jobs at 55 soft drink bottling and distribution facilities in Illinois. Together, these companies now pay $6.2 billion in annual wages. They generate a yearly economic impact in Illinois topping $21 billion, according to the Illinois Coalition against Beverage Taxes (www.noilbeverages.com).

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