Alderman proposes tax on sugary soft drinks as alternative to garbage fee

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CHICAGO -- The City Council Health Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sugary soft drinks.

A city Alderman is offering this tax instead of a new garbage tax. Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward) is putting forth this proposal.  Cardenas doesn't look at this as an either/or tax, but rather as a way of combating obesity and diabetes.

But the beverage industry is threatening to sue, saying the city would be constitutionally overstepping its bounds.

Employees and representatives of various soft drink companies and the beverage industry put on significant show of opposition before this morning's Health Committee hearing.  Saying the penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks with ten grams or more of sugar won't work.  They say it would be the third tax of its kind, and they claim the other two have done nothing to curb obesity or diabetes, but rather they claim it will increase prices and hurt businesses by forcing consumers to head to the suburbs or Indiana to purchase these drinks.

The American Beverage Association hired former City of Chicago Corporation Counsel Mara Georges to research the issue.  She claims the city cannot legally impose this sugary beverage tax.

This was the only hearing today where testimony is being offered.  No vote is expected.

Alderman Cardenas says the tax on sugary soft drinks could raise $134 million a year.