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Taxing your tummy for your own good

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 12:07 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 7, 2014 12:09 p.m. CDT

I’m dragging a dead horse back out again – one I flogged within the last month or so – because the legislation of your life is apparently not leaving anytime soon.

Meet Mattie Hunter, a Democratic State Senator from Chicago (of course). Hunter wants to save you from being fat, by targeting what she sees as the great “ruin-er” of waistlines throughout the state.

Does Hunter want to restrict your access to Krispy Kremes, or Twinkies or potato chips? No, her target is more insidious with a method that only a politician could love.

Ms. Hunter, seeing sodas and energy drinks as the antithesis of health, has proposed a tax on carbonated sugary beverages. And since nothing succeeds like excess, she’s going for the jugular with a 1 cent tax per ounce. Yes, per ounce. That means that 89 cents for the two liter bottle of Great Value cola you bought at Walmart last week will run another 68 cents if Mad Mattie has her way.

In a way, you can’t blame Hunter; she’s lost five immediate family members to health problems brought on by unhealthy diets. In her mind, what she’s doing is right for the state, its people and the business climate of Illinois.

Not all that long ago, I was addicted to soda. A six pack of Dr. Pepper in a day was not unusual and a hot day of outdoor recreation meant a 12 pack or more. I’ll admit, when I stopped drinking soda, my weight dropped 40 pounds almost overnight.

But that was my choice. You can’t legislate people’s beverage choices; it doesn’t work. The same measure was tried in health-conscious California and trendy New York where it failed miserably. Prohibition stands as the greatest testament to the people’s desire to have something and consequences be darned.

Good for the job atmosphere, she said? Only if you live in Davenport or St. Louis where more than a few people are going to drive and stock up on 24 packs of Coca-Cola rather than pay a $3 tax per case. It was only 25 years ago people would drive across the country to buy Coors beer in Colorado because it was illegal in much of the country. What were we thinking?

Hunter’s figures indicate an extra $600 million will pour into state coffers, where half of the proceeds from her Healthy Eating, Active Living Act would go toward funding Medicaid, and of course, healthy lifestyle education.

“We understand this is a challenge,” Hunter said. “But even if it takes three years, five years, we’re going to hang in there.”

Meanwhile, at Wrigley Field, my beer is going to cost less than my neighbor’s cola. I wonder if Mattie’s related to Anheuser-Busch?

Putnam County Record Staff Writer Ken Schroeder can be reached at kschroeder@putnamcountyrecord.com.

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