A Chicago alderman introduced an ordinance Wednesday that would add a penny per ounce tax to any bottled or canned drink that has sugar added to it.
The same type of tax was proposed a couple of years ago that went nowhere in the council. But as the city fiscal condition grows more desperate, the sugary drink tax idea has made a comeback.
At Roosevelt and Keeler, store owner Ameen Albarati worries about a proposed penny per ounce tax on sugar-added bottled and canned soft drinks.
“There’s too much high tax. It’s very too much,” Albarati said.
“They might as well be taxing air because I’m pretty sure there’s sugar in every drink in this store, period,” customer Steve O’Neal said.
The sugary drink tax is the resurrected idea of 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas, who a few years ago sponsored and won council passage of the five cents per bottle tax on water.
Cardenas says the new levy is about fighting obesity while helping balance the city’s pension-stressed budget, currently hundreds of millions of dollars in the red.
“Let’s take an opportunity to educate, and if there’s going to be some kind of a fee, make it useful,” Ald. Cardenas said.
Cardenas’ fellow aldermen rejected a similar tax two years ago, and several current council members were skeptical Wednesday.
“I don’t want to pay more for it. I get upset with this nickel for a bottle of water,” said Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward.
“Let’s think about this thing as a whole and not just point out a specific type of drink. Let’s look at all drinks if you want to tax something,” said Ald. Jason Irvin, 28th Ward.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who in a letter this week asked aldermen for revenue raising ideas, praised Cardenas for the suggestion.
“I’m proud that he brought an idea forward and people will analyze their opinion and ask questions of it,” Emanuel said.
The measure’s sponsor says a sugary drink tax could raise $134 million dollars a year and he bets Chicagoans will pay.
“It’s nothing but a couple of extra pennies. I’m still thirsty, you know, trying to get my drink,” customer Kwincy Johnson said.
The ordinance as currently proposed does not affect sugary drinks in fast food restaurants or otherwise dispensed by fountains, only those in bottles or cans.