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Illinois Gym Shoe Tax: Lawmaker Backing 25-Cent Tax On Sneakers To Help Fund Youth Programs

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An Illinois state representative is sponsoring a 25-cent tax on athletic shoes that would go toward funding YouthBuild, a non-profit helping at-risk youth. (Alamy) | Alamy

An Illinois lawmaker is proposing a new 25-cent tax, but it's not for the usual consumer suspects like food, booze, cigarettes or gas — it's for shoes.

State Rep. Will Davis of Crestwood is sponsoring a recently-introduced bill that would levy a 25-cent tax on all purchases of "athletic shoes." According to the Sun-Times, the bill considers such footwear to be any “shoe designed primarily for sports or other forms of physical activity.”

Davis hopes that if approved, the tax would go to supporting YouthBuild, a non-profit group with 15 programs around the state that provide job training, counseling, education and housing for disadvantaged youth.

"Athletic shoes are widespread," Davis told the Chicago Tribune. "If you're trying to find an idea that will capture as many resources as possible, this works. Everyone uses them, and just about everybody buys athletic shoes at some point in their lives."

Ironically, while no one is griping about the outlandish prices of some athletic shoes, plenty are fuming over the possibility of paying a quarter more for them.

David Vite, CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association told a local Fox affiliate, "Pretty soon we'll just become a 'travel to the border' state for everything."

Erica Otis, a downstate resident of Belleville told Fox, “Things are rough right now and people are struggling and an additional tax will really hurt shoe sales, especially on athletic shoes."

When Fox revealed the reason for the tax, Otis had a change of heart about ponying up a quarter more and said she was "all for it."

Dave Zimmer, owner of Chicago's Fleet Feet shoe store suggested a tax on gym shoes could send shoppers online and away from local brick-and-mortar businesses.

"I understand what they're trying to accomplish and the good they want to create," Zimmer told the Tribune. "But I just don't get the correlation between athletic shoes and the programs this tax would fund."

While the House will decide on the tax later this year, if passed, it wouldn't be the first creative tax levied for well-meaning ends; in August, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new law creating a surcharge for strip clubs.

Sponsored in 2012 by current congressional candidate Toi Hutchinson, the tax goes toward under-funded sexual assault resource centers that have been impacted by state funding cuts.

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