Like many municipalities across the country Chicago is facing a budget shortfall and is looking for ways to fill it. One of the proposals being floated at City Hall is a tax on beverages. The problem is Chicago already taxes beverages – twice. A third tax on common grocery items that would fall squarely on the backs of retailers, workers and families is not the answer.
John Coli, president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, and Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, recently wrote an opinion piece, “City soda tax hurts working-class people,” in the Chicago Sun-Times that makes a compelling case for why the beverage tax is a bad idea.
“There are 1,400 union employees in Chicago whose livelihoods depend, in part, on the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Additionally, there are nearly 40,000 small business owners and their hard-working employees who could be negatively impacted should such a tax be implemented,” they wrote.
Yet another tax on beverages will cost jobs during hard economic times, and it won’t do a thing to improve public health, as Coil and Karr demonstrate.
“We’ve tried this before. Chicago increased taxes on these beverages in 1991, and yet obesity rates continued to rise. The only marked effects of these taxes have been an exodus of jobs, small businesses and revenue out of the city,” they said.
There are more effective ways to address Chicago’s obesity challenge and it starts with education, not taxes.
“Rather than … burdening struggling businesses and working-class employees with taxes that do little to address the issue, we should focus on educating Americans on how to lead a balanced lifestyle and developing partnerships that will have a meaningful and lasting impact,” they said.
Ordinary Chicagoans agree. Many are joining the movement against another regressive and discriminatory beverage tax by joining the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, a coalition of Chicago families, small businesses, labor unions, chambers of commerce and community organizations. Learn more about their fight at the coalition website at www.noillinoisbeveragetax.com.