STUMP » Articles » Soda Tax: THE BUDGET RECKONING » 6 October 2017, 03:48

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Soda Tax: THE BUDGET RECKONING  

by

6 October 2017, 03:48

So I’m starting this post on October 5, when Preckwinkle’s Cook County budget is supposed to be released.

But it’s early in the morning, so let me go trolling for some stuff.

POLITICAL HEAT

I never expected the soda tax to be a wedge issue.

Life comes at you fast.

ILGOP once again blasts Dems for “silence” on the pop tax:

Wednesday, Oct 4, 2017

  • I’ve asked the candidates for a response and will post if they ever arrive…

“The silence from the Democrat candidates for governor speaks volumes about their respect for taxpayers. Rather than offer relief after backing Madigan’s 32% tax hike, Pritzker, Kennedy, and Biss are keeping quiet on the unpopular soda tax in a desperate attempt to curry favor with Chicago Democrat insiders. Taxpayers won’t let the Democrats’ deafening silence drown out their cries for help.” – Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Aaron DeGroot

From August 22, CapitolFax notes what gubernatorial candidates said about the soda tax:

Pritzker, Kennedy, Daiber, Hardiman oppose pop tax – No candidate supports a forced state repeal
Tuesday, Aug 22, 2017

  • I asked Democratic candidates for governor this question…

Should Cook County repeal its pop tax? Failing that, should the General Assembly pass a bill to repeal the tax? House Bill 4083 is bipartisan legislation to do just that and was introduced this week.

Their deadline was noon today, but they all complied well before their deadline for a change. Some candidates ignored the second question, but some didn’t answer either one. Here are the responses in the order they were received.

Click through to see the responses. They’re too boring even for me, so I’m not going to waste space on it.

Interesting to see who dodges the question, though. If you’re an Illinois voter, you might want to check that out.

Because… Chicago!

Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017

  • Press release…

Cook County’s penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, often called the “soda tax,” would be repealed under legislation (SB 2238) filed by State Sen. Chapin Rose.

“Many people just ‘roll their eyes’ at Cook County’s new soda tax as more of the same from the ‘nanny state’ that is Chicago,” Rose said. “But, people need to realize that Chicago’s actions will have a direct negative impact here in Central Illinois as one of the primary ingredients in any sweetened beverage is corn. So, agriculture will take a hit under this tax that is aimed at lowering consumption. Moreover, downstate companies and industries like ADM and Tate & Lyle and the shipping sector are directly engaged in the manufacturing of these ingredients. So make no mistake, Cook County’s actions will negatively impact us.

Well, that’s a dimension I didn’t think about.

How much do people hate the pop tax? Just ask these political foot soldiers

Democratic Organization precinct captains are running into something they rarely face as they pass candidate nominating petitions this fall: rejection.

The reported root of the problem is Cook County’s controversial soda pop tax, which County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says is needed to balance the books. She is expected to call for retaining it when she unveils her proposed fiscal 2018 budget today.

But the tax has ticked off lots of voters.

A number of them—how many depends on who you talk to—are taking it out on those circulating nominating petitions to get Preckwinkle and four other countywide candidates on the March 2018 ballot. Some people are refusing to sign.

And that’s not all.

“Voters aren’t just refusing to sign, they’re providing their own, not-so-kind editorial opinions” about Preckwinkle and County Assessor Joe Berrios, said one Democratic ward boss who asked not to be named. “The bulk of the comments are about the pop tax and county sales tax,” which Preckwinkle returned to level raised by her predecessor, Todd Stroger.

“If voters won’t even consider signing a petition to allow them back on the ballot, it’s clear there’s a serious issue for those two incumbents right now with Dem primary voters,” that source adds.

There’s no reason to think the mini-revolt will keep any of the five—Preckwinkle, Berrios, Sheriff Tom Dart, Karen Yarbrough for county clerk and County Treasurer Maria Pappas—off the ballot. Only 8,500 valid signatures are needed.

But the situation is sparking some chatter.

“The tax is causing a little bit of resistance,” conceded Berrios, who also is the county Democratic chairman. “But it’s nothing we can’t handle. (Enough) people are signing.”

Sure, but the real problem isn’t getting on the ballot.

The real problem (for the politicians) is actually getting re-elected. Now, maybe they don’t have any credible opponents, but piss off enough people, and all of a sudden you’ll find some very credible people wanting to run.

This has happened to long-time politicians before – has been happening to various Republican establishment pols, and it can very well happen to establishment Democrat pols. So be careful.

NOW FOR THE BUDGET OF DOOOOOOM

Preckwinkle: Keep pop tax, or here’s what could suffer

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle today launched a full-throated defense of her controversial tax on sweetened beverages, asserting that, without the $200-million-a-year levy, the county could have to close health clinics, pack more inmates into the jail, delay mailing property-tax bills and make an untold number of layoffs.

In a speech unveiling her proposed fiscal 2018 budget, Preckwinkle focused on one thing, and one thing only: the penny-an-ounce tax, which may well be repealed by the County Board next week after a furious few weeks of lobbying for and against.

“There’s no way, as there was last year, to vote ‘no’ on the revenue that funds our budget and then vote ‘yes’ on the overall budget itself,” she told her board. “To support spending, and the vital services and benefits we provide, you must support revenue.”

WHAT COULD BE CUT

Preckwinkle aides last week warned commissioners in a memo that junking the tax would force an 11 percent across-the-board cut in county spending. That figure apparently excludes some spending that is on autopilot, such as federal Medicaid funds that go to the county’s network of hospitals and health clinics. (You can read the budget summary at the end of this story.)

Today, the president got specific on what, in her view, may be on the chopping block.

Included as possible cuts: the closure of some county health clinics, “reduction of services at or closure of Provident Hospital or the Oak Forest Health Center” and possible “downgrading our Level 1 trauma center at Stroger” Hospital.

Also, she warned, a recent cost-saving reduction in the inmate population at the jail, from 10,000 to under 7,500, now could be reversed because of cuts to prosecutors, public defenders and jail-avoidance programs, forcing more suspects to be held in jail pending trial. And equally in jeopardy is “our ability to send out property-tax bills on time.”

Oh, no. They won’t be able to tax faster.

Seriously. Jeez.

Oh, wait, they’ll also be vulnerable to THE RUSSIANS!

ELECTION SECURITY

Even the security of local elections is on the line, because “cash for new election equipment to protect our voting systems from cyber-attacks would have to be purchased on borrowed money, which ultimately increases our bill dramatically.”

How about this for an idea: paper ballots. And scanning machines (look, this is what New York does. It’s not difficult.)

And not hooking up your damn voting machines to the internet.

How about that idea?

Sounds pretty frickin cheap to me. Whatever, you paid a bunch for software and crap. That’s sunk costs. And obviously hackable.

STRAIGHT FROM THE PROPOSED BUDGET: SOME GRAPHS AND DIRE WARNINGS

Here’s the budget recommendation document:

Cook County executive budget recommendation FY 2018 by AnnRWeiler on Scribd

I decided to pull out some choice items from the beginning of this document.

I understand there are residents who are unhappy with the sweetened beverage tax approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners last year. These opponents to the tax question the County’s need for more revenue. But I’d like to remind our residents that since I took office in 2010, we have shrunk the Cook County workforce by 10 percent. Last fiscal year alone, we reduced our workforce by approximately one 1 percent across the board. And we have closed budget gaps of $1.9 billion and cut nearly $700 million in expenditures. So when people call on us to reduce our ranks even further, make no mistake that the people who will receive layoff notices are doctors, nurses, and those who work in public safety positions.

Almost half of Cook County’s budget is spent on public health, which is one reason choosing a public health related tax of choice was considered and ultimately approved. In recent years, Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) has become a system of choice as opposed to of last resort, while also reducing the cost burden to taxpayers. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, and technological advancements embraced by CCHHS to make health care delivery more efficient, we have reduced its taxpayer allocation by 75% over the seven years of my tenure. Investing and encouraging healthier residents now creates long-term savings for the County because sicker patients are much more expensive to treat. Even with a significant increase in the number of insured patients, Cook County still provides 45 percent of the charity care in the County, even though our hospitals are a fraction of the 72 hospitals located here.

1% cuts! And a cumulative 10% over 7 years! Look at you! Of course, these percentages are just for headcount (or FTEs (full-time equivalents)), not necessarily payroll. But I will get back to that in a bit.

I’m not going to read all 432 pages, but I’m pretty good at extracting some key info people may find of interest.

So first, let’s look at a pie chart. I hate pie charts, but for this purpose, it’s semi-okay.

AGH MY BRAIN! Oh, that’s so ugly. But don’t worry. I’m about to make some graphs of my own.

Here’s the deal: the soda tax is part of the $707.7 million of non-property taxes and don’t make it into the sales tax item.

I’m pulling this from page 16 (by number on the page) which gives out actuals for FY 2014 – 2016, and projections for FY 2017 – 2022.

There are two bits – the General Fund and the Cook County Health & Hospital System. For simplicity, I’m combining the two.

So let’s see how important this soda tax is:

It’s not nothing, but it’s not huge.

But notice how oddly the FY 2018 fees portion increases a lot. I looked at it, and it’s coming from the Managed Care portion of the Health & Hospital System. I’m not digging through the doc to see how a 28% increase in fees is supported. That’s just suspicious to me.

Let’s look at the projected deficit.

Ah, yes. The magically zero deficit for the years you’re forced to have zero deficits. But look at the 2021 and 2022 deficits.

I understand why Preckwinkle is having a hissy fit over the soda tax. But so far, it’s been futile. And she’s losing even more ground.

JUMPING SHIP

Daley flips on soda tax, putting controversial levy in jeopardy

Cook County Board Commissioner John Daley confirms he’s changed his mind about the county’s controversial penny-an-ounce tax on soda pop.

“I have decided to vote to repeal the soda pop tax,” Daley said in a phone interview. “It’s creating tremendous dissension in every part of my district.”

Added the veteran commissioner and chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, “I’ve never seen such opposition to a tax.”

Daley originally voted for the tax on a tie vote. With his switch, it appears the votes will be there next week to repeal the levy. The question then will be whether County Board President Toni Preckwinkle vetoes the repeal, subjecting her allies to electoral attack, or gives up the fight.

Daley said there is some discussion about a possible replacement revenue-raiser, but nothing has jelled yet.

Yeah. I think the 11% cuts to the budget aren’t really scaring anybody at all.

Look, Preckwinkle has done the hockey-pokey with taxes before. Her document projects decreasing soda taxes (and I question whether she’ll get the projected amounts, but I’ll hold off on that). Maybe, just maybe, this isn’t a hill worth dying on. I’m will to bet that, just like with cigarette taxes, you’ll get a reduction in use/tax amounts years or even decades before you get any positive healthcare cost result, at which point Preckwinkle will likely herself be dead (remember: this is FOR THE KIDS. Preckwinkle herself is 70 years old.)

So it’s all political theater for now.

TWEET TWEET FOR THE SWEETS










WHY DO YOU HATE SICK PEOPLE PRECKWINKLE!!! GINGER ALE EXEMPTIONS FOR THE ILL!





Ooooh, that’s the problem with trying to put your presidential library in a bankrupt state.




ALL THE SODA TAX POSTS

Not including this one.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
Soda tax without end.

Amen.


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