Soda Tax Goes Flat in Chicago

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Cook County, Chicago, put itself on the map last year when the county approved a new, controversial soda pop tax. But now, the tax has a likely expiration date of Dec. 1st after becoming a force last month, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The repeal has enough commissioners backing it to override a veto by the Board President, Toni Preckwinkle. It only takes 11 commissioners to override a veto, and as of now, 12 of the 17 have signed to repeal the ordinance.

The “Sweetened Beverage Tax” imposed a cent-per-ounce on all bottled (and fountain) sweetened drinks. This included drinks that use non-sugar sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose.

Supporters of the tax argued that it would reduce childhood obesity by making soda and other sweetened drinks more expensive. They also claimed it would get more tax revenue into the county. The board president believed the county could expect revenues of around $200 million in the coming fiscal year.

Preckwinkle warned that getting rid of the tax would result in “11 percent across-the-board cuts” that would eliminate the county’s ability to provide adequate health care to the poor and to keep the criminal justice system operating smoothly.

“You know we need this revenue," Preckwinkle told the commissioners. But, the commissioners were not convinced.

According to The Tribune, if the tax does get repealed, commissioners will have to start “working to patch a big hole” in Preckwinkle's proposed $5.4 billion budget, which relies heavily on the soda tax being in place.

The citizens of Cook County were never for the tax.

“It doesn’t matter whether you tax tea or tax sugar,” Commissioner Richard Boykin of Oak Park told the Chicago Tribune. “Eventually people get fed up. Eventually, people say enough is enough. That is what happened here.”

A representative for the Cook County Coalition Against Beverage Taxes believed the tax would only impact the area negatively.

“This will result in fewer jobs, lower incomes and higher grocery bills. Consumers and small businesses will now have to pay the price and bear the burden of Cook County’s budget deficit,” the representative said.

The Consumerist notes that the tax was also problematic for Chicago-based businesses like McDonald’s and Walgreens. This was despite a state court prevented it from going into effect.

The also tax threatened federal SNAP (food stamps) funds for the county, because not all retailers were able to remove the tax from soda, juice, or other beverage purchases by customers using food assistance.

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