Crusader staff report
After heavy campaigning and heated debate to repeal the soda tax, Cook County Commissioners on Wednesday, September 13, voted to send the item to the Finance Committee. The move has forced opponents to wait at least another month to learn whether the controversial penny-per ounce tax will remain on sugary drinks.
It was standing room only at the Cook County Commission meeting, where an overflow crowd packed the room and gave commissioners an earful of complaints and concerns about the tax, which went into effect in August after a judge lifted an injunction that was ordered after opponents filed a lawsuit claiming the move was unconstitutional. Both supporters of the tax and opponents turned out for the meeting.
The tax barely passed last year, 9-8, after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast the deciding vote. Supporters of the repeal say the tax is driving businesses out of the county, but they fell short of getting nine commissioners to vote to repeal the tax. Now, the issue goes before the Finance Committee, which isn’t scheduled to meet until next month.
The meeting capped days of campaigning by opponents of the soda tax. The industry-backed “Can the Tax” coalition had volunteers passing out flyers in Bronzeville during the weekend. In Woodlawn, a poster on the front door of the Little Mermaid eatery urged residents to call District 2 Commissioner Dennis Deer to persuade him to vote in favor of repealing the tax.
On Tuesday, September 12, Cook County residents converged on the Thompson Center to attend a rally against the soda tax. Participating organizations included the Illinois Restaurant Association, Illinois Food and Retailers Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Cook County Farm Bureau. Organizers held a voter registration drive that sent a message to commissioners who voted in favor of the soda tax.
The uproar over the soda tax has threatened the political career of Preckwinkle, who announced last month another bid for reelection. In news reports, Preckwinkle said the tax is needed to raise more than $200 million a year to fill a budget deficit and avoid layoffs of employees serving in various departments in Cook County.
Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the tax, saying it will reduce childhood obesity and diabetes.