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Shane Cultra
State Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga.

SPRINGFIELD -- A freshman Republican senator from Central Illinois says he was merely kidding when he suggested that parents who have obese kids should lose their state tax deduction.

State Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, made the comments during a hearing Tuesday on a proposal to boost the tax on soda and other sweetened beverages as a way to raise money for anti-obesity programs.

"It's the parents' responsibility that have obese kids," said Cultra, a former member of the House who joined the Senate in January. "Take the tax deduction away for parents that have obese kids."

Cultra further added that people who receive public aid should be stripped of their state funds if their children are overweight.

"In poorer families they actually get money for their kids. I'd take that money away," Cultra said.

On Wednesday, however, Cultra said his comments weren't serious.

"I certainly regret my choice of words in the recent debate on Senate Bill 396. It was a tongue-in-cheek comment taken out of context -- and should not be taken seriously," Cultra said. "I am sensitive to the need to reduce childhood obesity. But I don't believe a new tax one everyone who buys juice, soda and energy drinks will accomplish the goal. Parents have to take some responsibility."

The proposed soda tax, which is being pushed by state Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, is designed to address overweight kids. It would add a penny per ounce to the price of drinks.

It appears unlikely the measure will move forward this spring.

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