STUMP » Articles » Pour One Out for the Cook County Soda Tax » 4 December 2017, 17:12

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Pour One Out for the Cook County Soda Tax  


4 December 2017, 17:12

Yes, it got repealed a bit ago, but it officially died Dec. 1

Sweetened Beverage Tax Set To Expire Friday

CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax becomes history at midnight, and store managers and shoppers alike are pleased.

Whether they admit to drinking pop or not, shoppers say they are happy to see the tax die. One woman says she can now stop going out of her way to purchase soda.

“I have been going to Lake County to pay, and I hate taking business away from local stores by my house,” she said.

Cook County officials are also among those happy to see the tax go.

Commissioner Richard Boykin said, “tomorrow is a new day in Cook County, and all 5.2 million residents can celebrate their newfound independence from the sweetened beverage tax.” He went on to say that unlike the state of Illinois or the City of Chicago, Cook County balanced its budget without increasing taxes. Boykin called this a “momentous accomplishment.”

In a near-unanimous vote, the Cook County Finance Committee approved to repeal the controversial tax in October. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin was the only member of the Board to vote against the proposal to eliminate it.

Well, wasn’t that sweet.


Check this out: Chief judge files action against Cook County Board

Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans made good Thursday on his promise to sue to block 2018 budget cuts planned by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle that would hit the court system hard.

More than 160 employees in the court system are slated for layoffs under the budget approved in November.

Evans said the suit against Cook County, Preckwinkle and county Treasurer Maria Pappas aims to make the county to take “whatever action is necessary” to stave off the layoffs.

Those targeted for termination have higher salaries and more seniority, according to the chief judge’s lawsuit, which says the layoffs would cause “disruption to the essential functioning of the court” and also force him to violate union contracts.

Good luck, judge.


Unions lost the soda tax fight. Do they want still more layoffs?

On Dec. 1, the unpopular Cook County soda tax expired. Consumers and retailers are still raising toasts, but not with Champagne. With Pepsi. And Diet Coke. And sweetened tea and …

Who isn’t toasting repeal of the sweetened beverage tax? Leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who represent thousands of unionized county workers. They lobbied hard to keep the unpopular tax in place — not because they supported public safety programs or were concerned about public health, but because they wanted to guarantee nice pay raises in the next union contract. To them, the soda tax represented $200 million in leverage at the bargaining table.
How’d AFSCME’s call to preserve the soda tax work out for its members?

Not well. The post-soda-tax-repeal budget that County Board members recently approved for the fiscal year that started Friday includes more than 320 layoffs and the loss of roughly 1,000 vacant positions.

Why so? In large part because of costly labor contracts already in place and the union’s inflexibility in helping county officials deal with their budget hole. Another influential union, Service Employees International Union, lobbied against furlough days, even though that path might have preserved jobs.

Don’t look now, but perhaps the soda tax controversy stirred more than consumer rebellion. Maybe it finally will bring about meaningful, structural, necessary downsizing of a government designed for the 19th century. Taxpayers can hope.

And if hoping doesn’t work, taxpayers can do what they did when Cook County levied the soda tax. They can revolt. Did we mention that all 17 County Board seats are up for election in 2018?

Oooooh, that should be fun.


Cook County’s repeal of its ‘soda tax’ may pause efforts in other cities

At the stroke of midnight, a tax on sugary drinks in Cook County, Illinois, came to an end.

Commissioners in the county, which includes Chicago, voted 15-2 to repeal the tax in October, less than a year since passing it and less than four months since implementing it.

The tax’s death marks the end of a fierce and costly battle between health advocates, billionaire former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the beverage industry. It also could prove itself to be a learning experience for both sides of the debate.

The county billed the one-cent-per-ounce tax as a way to plug a $200 million budget hole while encouraging consumers to choose healthier drinks. Opponents pounced on that, and the message stuck with residents who live in a county and state that are notorious for tax hikes and political dysfunction.

“What it came down to was working families saw this for what it was, and that was a tax to raise revenue, and an unfair one at that,” said Can the Tax coalition spokesman David Goldenberg. “They were tired of it and became … upset and took action overwhelmingly.”

It was definitely obviously about getting more money in Cook County, and not at all about health.

Soda tax leaves bad taste

The soda tax is dead, but the controversy over it is not.

Cook County’s exorbitant penny-per-ounce soda tax officially expired Dec. 1, and there was no one there to mourn its passing except for a handful of sadder-but-wise county politicians who had mistakenly counted on the revenues it generated to bail them out of their budget woes.

The expiration, of course, wasn’t the highlight of this both regrettable and notable chapter in Cook County political history. That came a couple months ago, after the new tax kicked in, and outraged consumers/voters let members of the county board know what they thought about this latest money grab.

The politicians quickly got the word, all except for county board President Toni Preckwinkle, who demonstrated how out of touch she is with her constituents. She said she was surprised anyone was upset about the tax hike and defended it to the bitter end.

Now Preckwinkle can expect opposition in the March Democratic Party primary. Two ambitious politicians have indicated they will run against her — former Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti and former board President Todd Stroger.

Other board members who voted for the tax before they discovered it was a bad idea also can expect a thorough going-over in the upcoming Democratic primary.

Man, I already had a bunch of stuff to look forward to in 2018… this one is going to be reaaaally fun.



So far. There may be another when we finally get a reckoning of how much money they actually got via this tax.

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