Proposed Illinois 'soda tax' leaves consumers with bad taste

By WEEK Producer

February 19, 2014 Updated Feb 19, 2014 at 8:29 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- A penny an ounce. That's how much more a sugar-sweetened soft drink would cost in Illinois if a proposed soda tax passes in Springfield.

"If they keep taxing things there's going to be no stopping point," said Angie Rynearson, who was buying a soda at a local gas station. "its going to keep spiraling and they're going to start taxing other things."

The proposed soda tax wouldn't just tax soda. It would also include things like sweetened tea, fruit drinks, energy drinks and even sports drinks.

The legislation is being sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D - 94th District, Chicago) and has the backing of the Illinois Public Health Institute.

The idea is raise $600-million a year to go toward under-funded medicaid programs and to promote better nutrition.

"The estimate is that obesity alone costs Illinois $4-billion more in healthcare costs," explained Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute. "That's in public healthcare spending and also for employers."

But the owner of The Spotted Cow restaurant in Peoria says a soda tax would be unhealthy for his small business.

"It's a sales killer more than anything because it really impacts the smaller, independent restaurants," said Frank Abnour. "The smaller and medium range operators, unlike the bigger chains and franchises, don't have the buying power."

Abnour has already knows what the tax would mean for his restaurant and says he'd have to cut at least a shift a week. That's fewer hours for his employees. Which might the legislation hard to swallow for some lawmakers.