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Proposed tax in Illinois could raise cost of sugary drinks

ROCK ISLAND – A proposed legislation wants to put a large tax on sugary drinks as an effort to combat rising obesity rates.

Illinois lawmakers want to put a tax on anything with sugar flavoring. The tax would include coffee, tea, soda, juice, sports drinks, syrups and powders. The tax would hike up the price for any drink with more than five grams of sugar.

On average, consumers could expect to pay around $1.44 more for a 12-pack of soda. The cup of coffee could go up a penny an ounce.

Some small businesses say a hike will only raise prices and push away customers because the cost difference would be passed onto them.

Kamille Brashear is an Augustana student who says any price increase can take a hit on people’s wallet.

“I believe that 10 or 30 cents does make a difference to any person. Especially for college students who are penny pinching for what they need,” said Brashear.

Theo Grevas owns Theo's Java Club in Rock Island and has been in business for 23 years. He says a tax in sugary drinks isn't what the state needs.

“They need to focus on bringing big businesses into this state. Enough is enough. Small businesses can't afford this state anymore,” said Grevas.

Grevas says he doesn’t want to raise the price of his coffee and says the tax reminds him of a time when his uncle had to raise coffee prices during World War II, upsetting customers.

Supporters say the tax will help tackle rising obesity rates in the state. According to The State of Obesity, Illinois adult obesity rate is currently 30.8 percent, up from 20.4 percent in 2000.

Grevas thinks it all comes down to money. “It’s just a way for them to make more revenue. I don't think they care that much about what they say it's for,” said Grevas.

Grevas also says he’s considering moving his business to Iowa if the tax passes and becomes a financial burden on his business.

If passed, the added tax could kick in by May 2017. Illinois law makers say the tax would bring in about $224 million per year and could help pay the state's bills.