Sugary drink tax still viable in General Assembly

SPRINGFIELD — A sugary drink tax is still in the mix in Springfield, according to its supporters.

This is a way to generate $900 million – $600 million from a one-cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks, and $300 million more in federal funds if half that money is allocated to Medicaid.

Elissa Bassler, executive director of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity, says the public supports this, according to a survey, if the money goes to health. “About 65 percent support the idea behind the Healthy Eating Active Living Act, which is the tax on sugary drinks, dedicating the funding to health prevention and Medicaid,” she said.

She says the survey showed the idea to be popular in Chicago (70 percent), the suburbs (59) and Downstate (62), and she says it is definitely on the table as lawmakers consider revenue options.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research (ALG), a national public opinion research firm, and was commissioned by the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity. It was in the field May 17-20.

The measure is sponsored by State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and State Rep. Robin Gabel (D-Evanston). It would cover non-diet soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, and fruit drinks with sugar added.

It is not moving through the committee process on its own, so it would have to be included in an overall budget deal to become law now.