CHICAGO — The Cook County Board of Commissioners today voted 15-2 to repeal a Chicago-area tax on a broad range of drinks sweetened with both sugar and zero-calorie sweeteners.
The board's finance committee voted on Tuesday to repeal the unpopular penny-per-ounce tax, and the full board cast the final vote moments ago with bipartisan support. The repeal will take effect Dec. 1, 2017.
Commissioners commented on their reasons for voting to repeal during yesterday's finance committee hearing. “The Cook County Board has heard you loud and clear. Opposition has been strong and consistent across all segments of our county,” said Republican Commissioner Sean Morrison of Palos Park, the lead sponsor of the repeal measure.
Democratic Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski of McCook argued that the county could make do without the money generated from the tax.
“This is not our money,” he added, saying the funds were “being taken from the working families of Cook County.”
The tax narrowly passed in November 2016 after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast a historic tie-breaking vote. While the tax was set to take effect in July, a legal challenge by the Illinois Retailers and Merchants Association blocked the implementation until August.
Many commissioners supported the repeal due to outcry from local citizens. A recent poll showed nearly 90 percent of Cook County residents opposed the tax.
The Can the Tax Coalition, representing local citizens, small businesses, restaurants, grocery stores and beverage companies, led a campaign urging the Cook County Board of Commissioners to repeal the beverage tax, arguing it raises beverage prices and hurts small, local businesses and working families the hardest. In the past two months, the Can the Tax coalition comprised of 21 organizations and thousands of small businesses spoke out against the tax.
“The Can the Tax Coalition applauds today’s repeal of Cook County’s unfair, over-reaching and unpopular beverage tax. Cook County residents have spoken and commissioners were listening," the coalition said in a statement. "We hope President Preckwinkle will sign the repeal so we can all move on and work together to strengthen Cook County."
Cook County’s decision to repeal its tax follows voter backlash against beverage taxes in other U.S. cities and states. Earlier in the year, Santa Fe voters rejected a similar beverage tax, as did citizens in St. Helens, Ore., and West Virginia. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a bipartisan bill to preempt local authority to impose food and beverage taxes is now likely to be signed into law by that state’s governor.
In addition to Cook County, various types of beverage taxes have been approved in recent years in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif.; Philadelphia; and Seattle. However, a national Harris Poll found that 62 percent of Americans oppose beverage taxes. And U.S. cities and states have consistently rejected new tax proposals. Over the last nine years, 45 different tax proposals have been rejected across the country.
Coca-Cola has said it agrees with policy makers and the public health community, that too much sugar isn’t good for anyone. The company also says it understands that governments need tax revenue to fund educated, safe, healthy and clean communities – the same communities in which its employees live and work.
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