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Proponents of proposed sugary drink tax to fight for legislation

Measure was defeated in state House committee last month

Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 11:14 p.m. CDT

Even though a proposal to tax sugary drinks as a way to combat obesity was voted down in a Illinois House committee recently, proponents of the tax intend to continue to fight for the legislation.

“We are certainly going to continue to work to pass legislation on this topic,” said Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute, the convening organization of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity. The bill was introduced with the support of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity.

Last month, an Illinois House committee voted down a proposal to place a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugary beverages, which include beverages with added caloric sweeteners such as soda, fruit drinks, sweetened teas and coffees and energy and sports drinks.

Bassler on Friday said her group plans to continue to educate lawmakers and others about the need for the Healthy Eating Active Living Act. Proponents contend the increased purchase price for sugary beverages would reduce consumption by about 23 percent in the first year of implementation.

Some local lawmakers, including state Rep. Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia, had voiced opposition to the tax. He said education was a more effective way of curbing obesity. State Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, who also opposed the bill, said he didn’t think that increasing the price of sugar-sweetened beverages necessarily would stop people from buying them.

According to the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, one in three children in the state are overweight or obese and nearly one in 12 Illinoisans have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Half of the revenue generated by the tax would have gone into a wellness fund to support initiatives that promote such things as physical activity, school health and wellness, access to healthy foods and obesity prevention. The other half of the funds would support the state’s Medicaid program.

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