Cook Co Commissioner John Fritchey Says Votes Are There to Repeal Cook Co’s Sweetened Beverage Tax

Cook County Board Chair, Toni Preckwinkle

Cook County – Sometimes Facebook is where news is made.  Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey on Friday posted on FB, that he believes there are now enough votes to repeal the law, and to override any veto of the repeal bill, by Cook County President Preckwinkle.

The tax on sweetened drinks is one of the most controversial passed in recent history in Cook County, with mass confusion among stores and restaurants on how to accurately implement it;  which drinks are taxed, are soda refills billed as “free” still subject to the sweetened beverage tax, why are some drinks that contain no sugar taxed?

Cook Co President Preckwinkle

Controversy also followed Cook County Toni Preckwinkle’s claim that the tax was intended to improve the health of citizens by making sugary drinks more expensive, AND that the revenue was needed to balance the budget.

Yet critics note, since the tax on sweetened drinks was first passed, Preckwinkle proposed giving a pay boost to Cook County employees, that is estimated to cost the County Budget an additional $130 million over five years.

As to the health claims, one recent commercial in favor of keeping the tax, featured a doctor noting that many children are suffering from obesity, with soda being a contributing factor.  That argument is likely very true, that sodas can cause significant weight gain, but many counter that it’s the child’s parents that should be managing their children’s diet and exercise, not the County government.

Now many in Cook Co are protesting the tax by buying their drinks, that are subject to the tax, from stores outside of Cook County.   In other cases, they’re going to restaurants outside the county to avoid the tax, that many feel is a case of government gouging.

This has lead to a campaign, repleat with television advertising to get rid of the tax on sweetened beverages.  Here’s one expample of an ad against the tax, that’s already had nearly 1,000,000 plays on YouTube.

Aside from the frustration by consumers, Rob Karr, the head of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, noted in interviews this tax has had a very negative effect and many small retail stores, and restaurants.  He notes that in many small restaurants, the profit on soft drinks, contributes a a lot of the profits made by the owners, where margins are higher than on food items.  So when consumers avoid the stores, or fail to order drinks subject to the tax, it has a significant impact on the businesses cash flow.

A vote to repeal the tax will likely be held on Thursday, October 12, and if passed, it would reportedly go into effect on December 1, 2017.

Supporters of the tax say this will cost the County approximately $200 Million in revenue, and its repeal will result in budget cuts and layoffs.