Cook County Board repeals controversial soda tax

Associated Press

Oct. 12, 2017

CHICAGO — The Cook County Board finished the job on Wednesday and repealed the controversial pop tax, which means soda drinkers won’t have to pay it come Dec. 1.

The repeal was a foregone conclusion after the board’s Finance Committee voted 15-1 on Tuesday, signaling the pop tax would be scrapped after just four months.

The Wednesday voice vote — two commissioners voted no — came despite a defiant 2018 budget address last week by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who maintained the $200 million a year she expected the pop tax to raise was needed to avoid 11 percent across-the-board cuts. She warned of reductions in critical public health and criminal justice programs.

After the vote, Preckwinkle struck a conciliatory tone, even as she indicated she wouldn’t be proposing cuts herself.

“Part of the job of being board president is making tough choices, but another part of this job is understanding that not every choice you make will be embraced by your colleagues or constituents and accepting when you need to make a change,” she said. “I respect the commissioners who believe that repealing this tax was the right thing to do, and I respect the people of the county who weighed in on this tax and let their voices be heard. I will continue to hear their voices.”

The final repeal vote came after the American Beverage Association and local store owners teamed to spend millions of dollars to push for repeal, countering an even more expensive TV and radio ad campaign by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire public health advocate.

Now that repeal is final, Preckwinkle, other countywide elected and appointed officials and commissioners will have to start working on cutting $200 million from Preckwinkle’s proposed $5.4 billion spending plan for next year. They have until Nov. 30 to approve a budget.