Just when Chicago’s economy is finally starting to show some growth, a city legislator is proposing to put a tax on a common grocery item – beverages. Alderman George Cardenas says it’s for health, but since when do Chicagoans need to be told what to eat and drink by the government?

For the record, beverages are not a unique driver of any disease and can certainly be part of a balanced lifestyle. And it’s well established that taxes on common grocery items do not improve public health. They just raise prices on working families, hurt small businesses and cost jobs.

Today Chicagoans fought back. The Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes stood together with others including the Teamsters, small business owners, economic growth groups and consumers to rally at City Hall in opposition to the tax proposal.

“The regressive beverage tax being proposed by the Chicago City Council will hit many of these minority-owned businesses and their hard-working employees right where it hurts – their bottom lines,” said Omar Duque, president and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. ‘The last thing they need is the government piling on with another job killing tax.”

Chicago already has a 9 percent tax on fountain soft drinks and a 3 percent soft drink tax on cans and bottles. Piling on with another penny-per-ounce tax on syrup proposed by Cardenas would raise the cost of a 12-pack of soda by an additional $1.44.

“Adding a third tax on these products will have disastrous unintended consequences, including higher prices at neighborhood grocers and restaurants, and job losses across several industries,” said Sam Toia, chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association and coalition member.

The non-alcoholic beverage industry has a significant impact on the Illinois economy, providing more than 7,500 high-paying jobs, $610 million in wages and $1.5 billion in state and federal taxes every year. That’s a direct economic impact of $5.2 billion. A new tax could threaten those jobs.

Cardenas is right to be concerned about the health of Chicago’s citizens. But the answer is educating people about the importance of achieving a balanced lifestyle – not raising the cost of one item in the grocery cart, which will have no real impact on public health. And it also raises the question of what’s next? A brat tax?

Politicians should focus on what matters most – education, jobs and the economy – and leave the grocery shopping to us! For more information on why the Chicago beverage tax is simply bad policy, visit www.noillinoisbeveragetax.com.