STUMP » Articles » Soda Tax Sunset: Toasting the End of an Era » 10 October 2017, 20:24

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Soda Tax Sunset: Toasting the End of an Era  


10 October 2017, 20:24

When I saw the news come in:

County Board moves to kill pop tax

Bowing to the political tide, the Cook County Board has taken the first step toward junking the penny-an-ounce tax on soda pop and other sweetened beverages.

The board’s Finance Committee voted 15-1 to repeal the levy after hours of debate. The only member voting against the repeal: Commissioner Larry Suffredin of Evanston.

Today’s action is certain to be binding, since all commissioners are members of the Finance Committee.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has staked her $5 billion budget and political reputation on passing and retaining the levy, did not attend the hearing. Aides say she will not comment until the full board acts on the matter tomorrow.

Preckwinkle could veto a repeal from the full board, but she may not bother since it appears she does not have enough votes to prevent an override, which only requires 11.

Now we’re likely to see weeks of wrangling over whether the board should find at least a partial replacement tax to make up for the $200 million a year the soda levy was projected to garner, or whether to implement cuts throughout county government. The repeal will not go into effect until Dec. 1.

Elected county officials were divided today on how bad the damage will be, with Treasurer Maria Pappas saying she’d be able to make the required cuts to her spending, and representatives of Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx predicting a devastating impact on their offices.

And then I had to crack open a drink:

Ah, the traditional Bermudan drink: rum & ginger beer. Reading the can, the first ingredient is carbonated water, and the second is sugar. It comes even before the rum (third ingredient)!

You know, I never did find out if a drink like that would get hit with both a booze tax and a soda tax. Oh well.



The Cook County Board Finance Committee voted Oct. 10 in favor of an ordinance to repeal the unpopular sweetened beverage tax. The repeal measure now awaits a vote before the full board.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee voted Oct. 10 in favor of an ordinance to repeal the controversial sweetened beverage tax. The repeal ordinance is now out of committee and awaits a board vote to become law.

Though dubbed a “soda tax,” the sweetened beverage tax applies to most drinks containing sugar or artificial sweetener, including soft drinks, diet or low-calorie soft drinks, sports drinks, fountain drinks, ready-to-drink teas and coffees, and juice drinks that aren’t 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice.

However, it’s likely that not all of those voting for repeal did so for policy reasons.

The sweetened beverage tax is massively unpopular. A poll commissioned by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association taken shortly after the tax went into effect showed nearly 87 percent of Cook County residents opposed the sweetened beverage tax, with 80 percent saying it was being imposed for reasons other than promoting public health.

The tax was so politically toxic, a report from Crain’s Chicago Business revealed Cook County precinct captains have been having a hard time obtaining the required number of signatures for incumbent county officeholders to get on the ballot.

Constituents flexed their muscles. And now politicians are listening.

Look at that. Actually listening to what people had to say.

Why Chicago’s soda tax fizzled after two months — and what it means for the anti-soda movement

About two months after the country’s largest soda tax went into effect, embattled lawmakers in Cook County, Ill. — the home of Chicago — have decided to repeal it.

The tax has been plagued, in its very short life, by legal challenges, implementation glitches and a screeching, multimillion-dollar media battle between the soda industry and public health groups. On Tuesday, in recognition of growing public pressure, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 15-1 to roll back the tax, effective as soon as Dec. 1.

It’s a major victory for Big Soda, which has spent millions on ad buys, lobbyists and political contributions in the county. It’s also the second blow this year to the soda tax movement, which suffered a defeat in Santa Fe, N.M., in early May.


[takes a sip of the Dark & Stormy]


Back to the piece:

“It doesn’t matter if you tax tea or sugar,” said Commissioner Richard Boykin, who represents the West Side of Chicago, referencing the run-up to the Revolutionary War. “Eventually people say ‘enough is enough.’”

Unlike other cities and counties that have passed soda taxes in recent years, Cook County was arguably cursed from the start.

The county of 5.2 million people was already contending with budgetary woes and widespread voter frustration with state and local government when the board voted in November 2016 to levy a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

But there were early signs that the soda tax might not raise the revenue advocates hoped, and certainly not on the intended schedule. The policy’s rollout was dogged by implementation errors and legal challenges.
When the tax finally did go into effect on Aug. 2, following a lawsuit by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, it was met with staunch public opposition: Consumers have organized highly visible boycotts, driving to nearby Indiana for groceries, and flooded their representatives with complaints.

Several Cook County commissioners who switched their votes in favor of repeal have cited that outrage.

“I have heard from the people of my district, overwhelmingly,” said Commissioner John Daley during the Tuesday hearing, which stretched on for hours as proponents and opponents of the tax testified to the board’s finance committee.

The question now — for soda tax critics and supporters alike — is whether Cook County’s failed soda tax is a sign of things to come in other jurisdictions. While the battle was ostensibly fought by state and country groups, it’s well-acknowledged on both sides that local soda tax skirmishes are essentially proxy wars between the national soda industry and well-monied public health groups.

Oh, ffs.

The outrage from consumers wasn’t because of BIG SODA.

It’s because the tax was idiotic for loads of reasons. Consumers did not need prodding to hate this over-reaching tax. It was waaaay too high. Almost all tax revolts are because those they’re imposed on think the taxes are too high on the particular item being taxed.

The real story is public entities hitting a wall in terms of being able to tax more. And the big need to tax more because of growing pension liabilities.

But getting back to the WaPo piece for a little bit, let’s laugh at this bit:

But it’s probably too early for Big Soda to gloat, experts caution. An analysis of the political and demographic climates in cities that successfully passed soda taxes, published in the journal Food Policy this year, concluded that as many as 40 percent of Americans live in cities with the right conditions to pass their own taxes. Those include external financial support and Democratic Party dominance.

Let me think – Cook County. Definitely Democratic Party dominance, and Michael Bloomberg flew in with his money.

So… that kind of undermines the message. And Cook County ain’t teeny – because it enfolds Chicago. This is a huge failure for soda taxes.

Column: Cook County soda tax opponents send a message – Get rid of budget waste

As I watched Cook County officials debate repealing the unpopular soda tax Tuesday, I thought one message cut through the din.

Cut the fat. Not with a hatchet, but with a scalpel.

“We have to be genuine with the taxpayers of Cook County,” Commissioner Richard Boykin, D-1st, said during Tuesday’s finance committee hearing. “The reality is there’s a lot of waste in a $5 billion budget. The taxpayers of Cook County expect us to get rid of that waste.”

Yet, $200 million is a lot of money. That’s how much county board President Toni Preckwinkle says must be cut from the budget when the soda tax is repealed.

The finance committee voted 15-1 to repeal the tax. Larry Suffredin D-13th, was the sole dissenter, and one commissioner was absent. The full county board is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to repeal the tax.

Commissioners on Tuesday acknowledged the tax has hurt mom-and-pop retailers, many of whom reported having to spend considerable sums on software to calculate the tax separately from regular sales taxes.

Commissioner Sean Morrison, R-17th, of Palos Park, introduced a repeal proposal Sept. 13, but its fate remained uncertain until last week. On Thursday, Finance Committee Chairman John Daley, D-11th, said he had changed his position from initially voting for the tax last November to now supporting a repeal.

With commissioners in near-unanimous agreement on repeal, they said they will now look for ways to consolidate departments, reform procurement procedures, reduce costs for employee benefits and pensions or find other ways to reduce the county’s expenses.

“Most commissioners have a keen sense of where we can cut without affecting front-line services,” said Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-7th.

Boykin said he would encourage departments to eliminate many of the county’s 1,500 vacant positions. Some commissioners said they looked forward to the opportunity to reform county government, noting the jail’s population has declined to about 7,000 from a peak of about 10,000.

“There will be new ideas that come out of this process,” said Commissioner Bridget Gainer, D-10th. “I don’t think there’s a department in the county that hasn’t gone through incredible change.”

There ya go, Preckwinkle: the line you can take. This ain’t a political failure… it’s an opportunity to shine even brighter!

You can do it!

Yes you can!


I am jealous of Yvette Shields: she has 280-character tweets. I’m still stuck with 140.


Yes, yes, we know the principle of the Democratic Party is Higher Taxes. Pity that people hate that principle.


It’s all over but the bureaucratic stamp labeled VOID.

I think that will be it for me, specifically on the soda tax. HOWEVER, there is going to be a budget battle royale coming up, and that should be interesting to watch for other reasons.

And this will likely be it for soda-tax-specific posts.

Because it was never about the soda tax.

It was always about the desperation of politicians for finding more revenue to fill the gaping pit of unfunded pension liabilities.

So I will be back to the regular ole pension posting grind tomorrow.

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