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Wednesday and repealed the controversial pop tax, which means soda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.