Beverage tax repeal leaves Cook County thirsty for revenue
The recent repeal of the controversial sweetened-drink tax by the Cook County Board drew statewide and national attention, but the battle over the county's budget and taxes rages on.
Cook County officials were counting on the revenue from the soda tax to help balance the budget. In a news release from the Illinois GOP, Board President Toni Preckwinkle told CBS Chicago that the tax, which was estimated to bring in about $200 million a year, was essential to county funding of essential services.
The tax will end on Dec. 1, and Preckwinkle said the repeal was driven by residents tired of taxes.
“There was just tax fatigue," she said, according to CBS Chicago. "This was the most recent tax enacted in a long series, and I bore the brunt of that."
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison told CBS Chicago that 85 percent of county residents objected to the beverage tax.
“It was the citizens who made this," Morrison said. "The citizens who made the phone calls, who wrote the letters. Without their involvement, this likely would not have passed."
Commissioner Larry Suffredin voted in favor of keeping the tax, as did Jerry Butler. Suffredin wrote a commentary in the Oct. 11 edition of the Chicago Tribune in defense of his vote, saying it would have provided significant revenue while imiproving the health of residents.
He also said that the soda-tax repeal will cause property and sales hikes.
“Unfortunately, repeal of the sweetened beverage tax also repeals the law that prohibited the raising of any taxes by Cook County until after 2020,” he said. “This tax limitation covered property taxes, sales taxes and home-rule excise taxes. The repeal of the tax limitation means all taxes are in play.”
Sufferdin noted concerns about the route the repeal took.
“I voted to keep the tax because it was a reasonable tax with prohibition on further tax increases, and it is bad policy to change taxes outside the budget process,” he said.
The Illinois Republican Party called the repeal a grassroots win for residents.
“Poll after poll after poll revealed the soda tax's huge unpopularity, but those polls never pushed the Democrat candidates for governor into action as they sought to curry favor with the Chicago Machine,” the GOP said in a release.
The GOP also cautioned about other taxes and questioned whether Democrats would ignore taxpayers and push for more increases.
“After the Democrat candidates endorsed (House Speaker) Mike Madigan's 32 percent tax hike, they will all likely tow the line and stand with Preckwinkle as further taxes may be raised,” the GOP said.
USA Today reported that the tax, which assessed a penny per ounce to the purchase of sugary drinks in the county, was repealed on a 15-2 committee vote on Oct. 11 after an outcry from soda-industry representatives and area beverage sellers.
The tax was implemented on Aug. 2.