Ill. lawmaker says raising obese kids should cost parents at tax time

Hannah Hess|StlToday

Illinois state senator Shane Cultra.

An Illinois lawmaker says parents who have obese children should lose their state tax deduction.

“It’s the parents’ responsibility that have obese kids,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “Take the tax deduction away for parents that have obese kids.”

Cultra has not introduced legislation to deny parents the $2,000 standard tax deduction, but he floated the idea Tuesday, when lawmakers took a shot at solving the state’s obesity epidemic.

With one in five Illinois children classified as obese and 62 percent of the state’s adults considered overweight, health advocates are pushing a platter of diet solutions including trans fat bans and restricting junk food purchases on food stamps.

Today, the Senate Public Health Committee considered taxing sugary beverages at a penny-per-ounce, in effect applying the same theory to soda, juices and energy drinks that governs to liquor sales. Health advocates say a sin tax could discourage consumption, but lawmakers are reluctant to target an industry supports the jobs of more than 40,000 Illinoisans.

“It seems like we just, we go after the low-hanging fruit, where its easy to get,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. He said the state needs to form a comprehensive plan to address physical fitness and disease prevention, rather than taking aim at sugary drinks.

Studies attributing the weight gain to liquid sources have made the beverages the latest target in the war on fat. Last year, 23 states proposed tax plans similar to the one presented by state Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, but opponents flushed them down the drain.

“We don’t discount and we don’t dispute the health factor,” said Tim Bramlet, executive director of the Illinois Beverage Association. “We just think the beverage tax is actually the wrong way to go, and won’t help the problem.”

The tax would pose an economic threat to corn-growing farmers, companies like Archer Daniels Midland and distributors, he argued.

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