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Adam Vitale: Don’t increase soda tax in Illinois

Increasing soda taxes would negatively impact restaurant and grocery store owners, eliminate jobs and investment in our community, and could further damage the already fragile economy in Illinois.

By Adam Vitale
President of G&M Distributors, Inc.

I have a confession to make, I drink and sell soft drinks. I also have a sweet tooth and should join ice cream eaters anonymous. If I was a stress eater, and read articles about the state of Illinois, I would be morbidly obese. Recently, some members of the Illinois General Assembly looked to soft drinks as a revenue generating option. Soft drinks are already taxed in Illinois.

Increasing soda taxes would negatively impact restaurant and grocery store owners, eliminate jobs and investment in our community, and could further damage the already fragile economy in Illinois.

I can imagine what you are thinking, this guy is just about self-preservation. You are probably also thinking that soft drinks are the main reason Americans have extra room in their waistlines. I am not just about self-preservation; I am truly concerned for our family of employees at G&M Distributors. Imposing a soft drink tax will further erode our business and most likely result in job losses. It will make my company’s history of giving back more reserved.

In fact, the state of Illinois would make more money on certain products than G&M will. When you couple this with the taxes that we pay, this causes me great pause. I would like to grow our business, but do I want to be in a state that is so unwelcoming to business?

In regard to America’s heftiness, I completely disagree. Over the past decade soft drink sales have declined 12 percent. America’s waistlines have not decreased by 12 percent. In fact, both adult and childhood obesity has continued to rise over the past 12 years. Soft drinks have been removed from schools. Children are still gaining weight. If we are truly interested in solving America’s obesity problem, we need to work together to look at comprehensive solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact.

Simplistic approaches targeting one portion of the items in our grocery carts will not work. It is unfair. Why do we not tax portion sizes of meals, gallons of ice cream, fried foods, popcorn drenched in butter, or iced lattes? Maybe we should regulate how many snacks we eat per day? How about taxing carbohydrate volume; aren’t they today’s problem? Why should we stop with foods that are perceived to be bad for us? What if we imposed a kale tax or a levy on arugula?

Despite the issues in Illinois, I am still optimistic about our state’s future. I want to grow my family’s business, add jobs to our community and give back. This can only happen if we have a state that recognizes the contributions of small business owners who are struggling daily to get by.

It’s encouraging to see state legislators come together after a year-long impasse and pass a short term budget. I hope they can build off this and find a way to address our many challenges without running small businesses like ours out of the state.

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Adam G. Vitale is president of G&M Distributors, Inc., which is a wholesale beverage distributor in Galesburg serving a 24 county region in northern and western Illinois.

Published in The Register-Mail Galesburg July 12, 2016

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