Below is an update provided by the Illinois Public Health Institute on the progress advocating for the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) proposal- a penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks to raise revenues for Medicaid and community prevention. You will also find a news story about the importance of the HEAL Act in Illinois that aired on Springfield’s ABC NewsChannel 20 that features IPHA Director of Public Policy Ralph Schubert.

Legislative updates:

  • The legislature failed to pass a budget by the May 31st session deadline and have now gone into continuous session over the summer in Springfield. Unfortunately, as the budget impasse continues, social, human, and health services and those who need them are suffering.
  • Our advocacy successes: The good news is that our lobbying, grassroots organizing, and media efforts in support of the HEAL proposal have paid off!  When a bipartisan group of legislators and Governor’s staff developed a revenue package to send to the Governor and 4 legislative leaders to consider in mid-May, a penny-per ounce sugary drink tax was included in the package! This is the first time we’ve had the penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks seriously considered and written into a revenue package and supported by both Republicans and Democrats.  We were thrilled with this outcome and could not have done it without all of you!
  • There’s still more work to be done!

o   While the penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax was included in the revenue package, it is unknown how the revenue (estimated to be $600 million/year) would be allocated. We heard from some legislators who were part of the discussions that there was interest in only using the revenues for Medicaid and/or just filling gaps in the general revenue fund.  We know from our public opinion poll that public support drops below 50% when the funds are used for general revenue, and we know how critical it is that some of the revenues go back to communities to invest in prevention and wellness.

o   Also, now that the beverage industry knows the sugary drink tax was officially on the table, they will be working hard to defeat it and remove it from future revenue packages. Since we don’t know how long the budget impasse will continue, we have to work hard to keep the HEAL proposal in the minds of legislators and ensure continued support for the proposal.

  • Here’s what we’re planning to do and how you can help:

o   We need to continue to tell legislators, especially those working on the budget negotiations, why the HEAL proposal is good for Illinois and why it’s so important that 20% of the revenues go back to communities for prevention, especially high-need communities that are impacted the most by poverty and obesity/chronic diseases. Our most recent fact sheet with the full list of supporters is below for your review.

o   We will be setting up in-district constituent meetings over the summer to meet with legislators and talk about the proposal and need to invest in prevention. Please let us know if you’d like to join us in a meeting with your legislators.

o   We will continue to monitor media coverage of the budget discussions and sugary drink tax and respond with letters to the editor, and potential pro-active stories about the benefits of the HEAL proposal. You can help by signing letters to the editor and submitting them to your local media and by sharing our stories via social media.

ABC NewsChannel 20 story:

HEAL Act Fact Sheet