Taxing sweetened beverages is wrong, Baumer says
Cook County wants to fix its budget shortfall by taxing sweetened beverages a penny an ounce, a plan Katy Dolan Baumer, Republication candidate for the 44th State District House seat, said is unfair.
“I think it's horrible. It's not right,” Baumer told the West Cook News. Baumer, a Streamwood resident, said not only would this tax unfairly target youth, who tend to drink more sweetened beverages, but it's not fair to make it specific to sweetened drinks. The county could next decide to tax corn syrup because it is used as the sweetener and then corn itself because it can be made into corn syrup to make these drinks, she said.
Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County board president, proposed the tax as a way to raise $74 million to help reduce a $174 million budget gap, the Cook County Executive Budget Recommendation report detailed.
Similar taxes have been passed in other large cities in the U.S. such as Berkeley, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Officials typically add the tax in the hope of fighting health issues such as obesity and diabetes, but Baumer said she disagrees with that strategy.
“The government likes to step in because we are [becoming] a 'babysitter' government and they want to make sure we don't cross that little line of what may be unhealthful for us,” she said.
Baumer said people should have the right to drink soda, people should have the right to make soda and the people growing corn should have a right to made it into corn syrup if that's what they want to do. It's okay for the government to give advice, Baumer said, but the minute the government tries to force it, people inevitably want to do the opposite. “You can't force people into a belief, you just can't,” Baumer said. “I, as a consumer, should have a choice about what I want to put in my body.”
Taxing soda, fruit-flavored drinks and energy drinks isn't going to make people healthier and it isn't going to make them change their daily habits, Baumer said. People do not stop driving on a road just because the government increases the toll it and if the government starts taxing clothes people don't stop wearing them. If beverages are taxed they will not stop drinking them, she said. Eventually, it will just become “the cost” of the product and people will pay it.
If the government was going to tax a beverage it would make more sense to tax alcohol, Baumer said, because alcohol is much more destructive to families. One person drinking and driving can kill multiple people, she said, but the alcohol lobby group is much stronger than the soda lobby group.
If people are using their own money they have the right to buy soft drinks or sweetened cereals or any other product they like, Baumer said. When it comes to government money, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), it makes sense to restrict the purchases to healthy foods and drinks, she said. The program's purpose is to provide nutrition.
The sweetened beverage tax would not include 100 percent juice drinks.