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Cook County Will Repeal Soda Tax

Health benefit claims abandoned in naked demand for revenue.

County Commission President Toni PreckwinkleSiYH/FlickrDo soda taxes make healthier citizens or healthier budgets?

In a desperate attempt to save Cook County, Illinois' wildly unpopular one cent per ounce soda tax—on the verge of being repealed by a vote on Wednesday—proponents are trying to make the beverage levy seem like a win for both.

"I'm standing with the children who're growing up in a world where sickening, sugary drinks are relentlessly promoted to them," Elissa Bassler, CEO of Illinois Public Health Institute and a tax proponent, told county commissioners. "The county clearly needs this revenue to serve the people I was just talking about."

Increasingly few Cook County residents are buying the double-speak. Eight commissioners voted to enact the soda tax in November 2016. Now twelve of 17 are saying that they will vote to repeal it.

One defector, Commissioner John P. Daley said that his constituents were fed up with taxes, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that "they are being taxed out of the state, out of the county. The public is saying, 'There are too many taxes and I'm tired of it.'"

In 2016, the county upped the sales tax a full percent, making the combined Cook County-City of Chicago sales tax rate 10.25 percent (the nation's highest). In 2017, Cook County residents saw up to a 10 percent bump in their property taxes.

Then there are the increasingly petty taxes that Cook County has slapped on everything from e-cigarette liquids and ticket re-selling websites to hotel rooms.

This added revenue is not going to expand services for which residents might be willing to pay. Instead it is being eaten up by Cook County's massive debt and pension burdens.

Property tax returns for Fiscal Year 2018 are estimated to increase by $4.7 million, but the amount of property tax dollars available to fund things like police officers, county health services, and other basics will decline by $5 million. The reason? County budget documents say $3.2 million in debt servicing payments, and another $5.7 million in increased funding for retirement benefits.

As an increasing slice of revenue from property and sales taxes are devoted to these legacy costs, the county has gone searching for creative ways of bilking citizens. This has involved the employment of tobacco sniffing dogs to ensure compliance with the county's cigarette levy. It's also meant leaning heavily on the soda tax.

According to budget projections for Fiscal Year 2018, Cook County's budget will increase by $76 million over FY 2017. Without the soda tax, the County would be short $51 million.

County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle has been doing everything she can to forestall a repeal, making an explicit plea to keep the tax during her October 4th budget address, and demanding that anti-tax commissioners specify which programs and services they'll cut.

Preckwinkle has at least been more honest about the tax, saying "we chose as a revenue generator a sweetened beverage tax, which had been enacted around the country, both for the revenue and for the health benefits. But first and foremost, for the revenue."

She has not, however, explained away how taxing soda and driving down sales will drive up revenue. On the eve of an almost certain repeal it doesn't much matter.

Some commissioners have resigned themselves to promises of budget cuts and offsetting savings to deal with the deficits. Commissioner John Fritchney reportedly is endorsing legalizing and taxing marijuana, although it's unclear how he can shoehorn healthier citizens into his equation.

Anything is better than shaking down taxpayers every time they want to buy a Big Gulp.

Photo Credit: SiYH/Flickr

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    The public is saying, 'There are too many taxes and I'm tired of it.'

    Commissioner Daley was no doubt stunned to learn this.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Right? He's supposed to have aides who form an impenetrable barrier between him and the public at all times.

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  • p3orion||

    The only moral justification for any tax is raising revenue, and even that is subject to the question of how the revenue will be used. "Improving public health" is none of the government's goddamed business.

  • KKCE967||

    I've been living in Cook for 20 years now and I was stunned to learn that. Up until now, my neighbors didn't seem to find a tax they didn't like. Of course, the Cook County board slipped them through without a lot of fanfare and no one seemed to notice. It started with an increase in the county sales tax. Non food items are taxed at 10.25%. Food was raised to 2.25% from 8% and 2% respectively. Then this::
    - A cigarette tax
    - A liquor tax
    - A bottled water tax
    - A 10% tax on drive thru purchases
    - A 10% tax on the cost of entertainment and restaurant dining.
    - An increase in the cost of water and sewer of almost 50%
    - A property tax increase that resulted in ILExit and at the very least Crexit.
    - A 7cent a plastic bag tax (in the city of Chicago only)
    The idea to regulate Lyft and Uber drivers like they regulate Taxis is a Chicago thing too and not a burbie one.
    - a 5c per bullet tax on Ammo (except bb's)
    - All candy, chocolate, chips, and soda are taxed at 10.25% so the additional penny per ounce was added to the 10.25% tax. It didn't replace it.
    The soda tax which affects not just sodas but diet drinks, coconut water, juice, powerade, gatorade, and just about everything in the beverage aisle (including drinks that diabetics drink because they can't have sugar) that isn't a milk product or 100% juice, was an in your face tax. I work for Big Retail and I can honestly tell you, that no one needed Big Soda to prompt outrage.

  • timbo||

    Dumb ass bureaucrats. I wonder if any of those useless pieces of sh*t lost their job for f*cking the people that employ them?

    I think I know the answer.

  • ||

    They were in danger of losing their job on election day. That is why the changed their mind.

    This tax is deeply unpopular.

  • CE||

    Nice to see even big city types can get tired of nickel and dime taxes on everything.

  • timbo||

    Obama, being the stupidest man to hold high office, will have every one of his idiot accomplishments rolled back out of sheer necessity.

    As much as I hate Bush, Obama is actually dumber. Bush begat Obama so bush really sucks.

    Bush said "we have to abandon the free market to save it" That is some moron sh*t.

    obama said private enterprise did not build private enterprise. Obama is dumber. Dumber exponentially when you look at what he did for 8 years. A moron puppet pimp who wanted nothing more than to be a star-f*cker.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    this is dumb to

  • Hugh Akston||

    ::backs away slowly, not making eye contact::

  • Devastator||

    You comment on Obama being dumb, have you take a look at your current President recently?

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Only one President can be dumb, so if Trump is dumb, Obama cannot be dumb. QED.

  • MJBinAL||

    G.W. Bush sucked and is a fool
    B.H. Obama sucked even worse and is a Socialist tool
    D.J. Trump sucks, but can't hold a candle to the previous two

    Trump SAYS dumb stuff. Bush and Obama DID dumb stuff.

  • BYODB||

    I think we can generally agree that the Presidency itself is dumb, as are the men (or women) who hold that office. It's not really a contest for which one of them is 'the worst' since Woodrow Wilson and FDR set a pretty high bar.

  • SemperFi1371||

    What are you babbling on about? Did Obama get elected to cook county commissioner while I was in the John?

  • Teddy Pump||

    Of course Obummy is dumber......He thinks homos & trannys are normal!!!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The real issue here always seems to come down to the unrealistic benefits packages that were agreed on decades ago for public employee union members. If those are to be upheld, there have to be ruinous taxes....and ultimately the municipalities and states involved will go broke anyway.

    What needs to happen is for some politicians with some guts to tell the unions "Look, the goose can't lay any more golden eggs, and if we keep strangling it it won't lay any at all. You HAVE to accept some radical changes in your benefits, or when the budget bomb finally goes 'BOOM!' you'll ALL be out of work."

    Yeah, right.

    But the high taxes and fascination with 'sin taxes' and red-light cameras that are rigged, and so on can't go on forever. And the people who are mad as hell about it need to start electing office holders who will attack the root problem.

  • cgr2727||

    What needs to happen is for some politicians with some guts to tell the unions "Look, the goose can't lay any more golden eggs, and if we keep strangling it it won't lay any at all. You HAVE to accept some radical changes in your benefits, or when the budget bomb finally goes 'BOOM!' you'll ALL be out of work."

    That's what SHOULD happen, but in the People's Republic of Illinois, it CAN'T happen. The union shills literally have constitutional protection for their pensions. It was written into the state constitution back in the early '70's or whenever the re-write was done. (And don't blame me, I wasn't quite born yet.) The short version is that a benefit, once promised, can never be reduced. Several schemes that might've made a modest dent have been slapped down by state courts in recent years.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Nobody has to live in Illinois. Move somewhere else, and let the public sector workers tax each other for their pay and benefits.

  • Fooseven||

    What if the county ever files for bankruptcy?

  • Lily Bulero||

    "County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle"

    You made that name up, didn't you?

  • Lily Bulero||

  • Rich||

    Can you say "President Preckwinkle" three times without laughing?

  • Lily Bulero||

    This is a serious issue - an ambassador will inevitably embarrass himself by saying "greetings, President Prickwrinkle."

  • Devastator||

    I'm sure Prickwrinkle would come out the first time I said it.

  • Teddy Pump||

    Shouldn't it be Toni PrickDinkle?

  • Longtobefree||

    County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle has been doing everything she can to forestall a repeal, making an explicit plea to keep the tax during her October 4th budget address, and demanding that anti-tax commissioners specify which programs and services they'll cut.

    First; Toni's salary and staff wages.

  • J'onn J'onzz||

    Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle earns $170,000. It would be a good start.

  • Paper Wasp||

    LOL, Cook County going after sodas. Cook County, where there's a kickass deep-dish pizza joint on every corner, a Portillo's on the other corner, an Oberweis Ice Cream on the third, and some burger joint on the last corner that makes a 2-lb brie-stuffed bacon bleu cheese burger on a brioche bun with duck-fat fries. Cook County, where you can get cheese grits delivered to your room in the cardiac unit.

    Oh but yeah, you tax those sodas. Save the chyldwun. Luuulz.

  • CE||

    Deep-dish isn't pizza.

  • Ska||

    The rest of that post was gold. And instead of getting pizza, go to Monte Verde and have the soppresata meatballs with cavatelle and osso bucco.

  • Devastator||

    isn't -just- pizza, it's delicious pizza.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    It's pizza, plus it's deeper and dishier... yum.

  • Paper Wasp||

    I'm pizza-agnostic. If you like you're NY/NJ thin crust, I'm down with that. If you like your super-thick Chicago-style pie groaning under five pounds of meat, red wine tomato sauce, and buffalo mozzarella, I'm down with that. You can call it whatever you want while I tuck in and eat it.

  • RoyMo||

    But what if you know that New York pizza has thick crust? They are both wrong. Pizza should cone on a rigid piece of extremely thin cracker, or barring that an extremely thin disk of bread dough.

    Not even all of Chicago used to call some sort of tomato cheese pie, top crust optional, pizza.

  • Subpoena'd Woodchipper||

    CE - thems fighting words. Say something about a Chicago hot dog and it's on

  • ||

    some burger joint on the last corner that makes a 2-lb brie-stuffed bacon bleu cheese burger on a brioche bun with duck-fat fries.

    Brie? Bleu? Brioche? 'The fuck outta here!

    The fourth corner is usually a Buona Beef or other restaurant chain serving a combo, the other Chicago staple.

    Occasionally, because diversity (We aren't Milwaukee!), we sacrifice the Oberweis for a nameless Taqueria that advertises burritos as big as your head.

  • Subpoena'd Woodchipper||

    Fa la la la La Bamba!!! The best burrito when you are hammered drunk at 3am

  • Paper Wasp||

    Okay but the Oberweis had better be within waddling distance paesan, because I needs my chocolate-peanut-butter waffle cone. Seriously, best chocolate-peanut butter ice cream in the U.S.

  • gordo53||

    Cook County, like many other municipalities, is in a financial death spiral. Default or bankruptcy is their future. Repealing the soda tax is way too little to late. Last one out turn off the lights!

  • Eeyore||

    Maybe they should start by taxing pension benefit payments at 50%.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Maybe they should start by taxing PUBLIC pension benefit payments at 50%.

    You're welcome.

  • widget||

    The courts will kill that toot sweet. The contractor will honor the contract until he/it is bankrupt. What you'll see first, instead, is the selling off of public assets to make good on the payments. That's not a fully awful thing, in the long term, from a libertarian perspective, if libertarianism can last that long.

  • LDRider||

    Wonder what happens when those pension checks start to bounce?

  • p3orion||

    "Wonder what happens when those pension checks start to bounce?"

    The same thing that always happens when people get fed up with the corruption, crime, high taxes, and financial insolvency of Democrat-led cities, counties, and states: they'll all move to red states, but then continue voting for Democrats.

  • Eeyore||

    Yes, your version is an improvement. Should probably add "defined benefit" as well, to encourage the transition to better retirement plans.

  • Davulek||

    They started taxing pension benefits at 3% here in Michigan and all the seniors blew a gasket about how they wouldn't be able afford food anymore.
    They gather daily at Golden Corral to discuss it.

  • widget||

    These fancy new soda machines let you make your own concoction. I like mine with about 90% plain soda water, a spritz of Sprite, and another spritz of bug juice. I am not gay! Yet. So, to protect my health from the ravages of sugar, how would this be taxed?

  • Lily Bulero||

    "How much ya got?"

  • Eeyore||

    They might as well just tax all liquids at the same rate, if the goal is revenue. I predict that most suger syrup taxes will transform into soda taxes eventually anyway.

  • Mudhen||

    "I'm standing with the children who're growing up in a world where sickening, sugary drinks are relentlessly promoted to them," Elissa Bassler, CEO of Illinois Public Health Institute" Really? She sounds like a regular Carrie Nation for the 21st Century. The world does not need to be saved by self-righteous blowhards like her.

    Meanwhile its will be interesting to what Taxwinkle decides to tax to replace this as there's no way she'll actually cut expenses. She's leading with the politicians favorite rallying cry "There's always more money where that came from!"

  • SoberPhobic||

    add $2 to cigarettes $2 to booze. the usual suspects

  • J'onn J'onzz||

    From Illinoispolicy.org. The City of Chicago enacted numerous tax increases over the past two years. The city is hitting residents with a multi-billion dollar burden to shore up Chicago's broken pension systems, not to provide new services. The city passed:
    A record $700 million-plus set of tax hikes in 2015, including:
    A property tax hike of $318 million in 2015 that will rise to a total of $543 million a year by 2018. The tax is meant to partially pay for the city's virtually insolvent police and fire pension funds.
    An additional $45 million in property taxes to pay for capital projects at CPS.
    An additional $62.7 million from a new garbage collection fee.
    $60 million in new fees on taxis and ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft
    $13 million from higher building-permit fees
    $1 million from a tax on e-cigarettes
    A $50 million increase on 911 fees, effective in 2015, to pay for city laborers pensions.
    A new $12 million tax on plastic bags in 2017.
    A new $40 million "Netflix" tax on movie streaming and other media in 2015
    A tax on water and sewer utilities that will raise $56 million in 2017 and nearly $240 million annually by 2020.
    Chicago's Park District also hiked parking, harbor and program fees by over a $1 million in 2017.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    This is my favorite issue for demonstrating the hypocrisy of the american left. The soda tax is very, very regressive. This is why many socialists (real ones, not members of the democrat party who conservatives like to call socialists) are opposed to it.

  • MJBinAL||

    Socialist are not opposed to regressive taxes so long as they lay the groundwork for full government control. Kinda like YoMamaCare, it is sometimes necessary to completely collapse the system so as to make the case for full government control.

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    What I meant is that people who identify as "socialist" or as "social democrats" are split on the issue. As a result, political parties like the Greens have refused to take an official stance in either direction. See California's referendum, for example.

  • Paper Wasp||

    The progs wag their fingers against Big Soda while they're telling people we need to "do more" to support expensive, overpriced, skimpy-portioned, pretentious "local" food that's just as rotten for you. Honestly, I think the their deal is "we didn't think of it first, therefore we're taxing and shaming you for it."

  • Magnitogorsk||

    "I'm standing with the children who're growing up in a world where sickening, sugary drinks are relentlessly promoted to them"

    If only all the children throughout history that perished from war, famine, disease, and slavery knew how lucky they were to have passed before they were forced to live in our nightmarish hellscape of untaxed sugary beverages

  • p3orion||

    Sarcasm, my favorite art. I salute you as a master of the medium, sir!

  • Eman||

    A few thoughts A) I thought "Toni" was the feminine conjugation B) "peckwinkle really should be a euphemism for something, not t sure what, but there's a possibility it's penis, and C) the whole article is based on a false dichotomy. The beauty of taxing unhealthy shit is that you can raise revenue while discouraging bad behavior. Not understanding such a simple concept is pretty much proof that there's some sinister agendum [which is apparently a real enough word to get spellcheck's approval. I didn't know " agenda" was a plural]

  • JunkScienceIsJunk||

    And this also emphasizes the most troubling aspect. Raising revenue is just a smokescreen (as I pointed out above), because the proponents of the tax would never otherwise suggest a regressive tax for reasons of revenue generation. It's entirely about social engineering and using the power of taxation to manipulate behavior. Sort of like what Trump did today re: NFL.

  • Rich Muny||

    So, we get taxed at the federal level to subsidize manufacture of corn syrup and then taxed locally as a penalty for consuming it?

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    Third Official: Well most things we do for pleasure nowadays are taxed, except one.

    Politician: What do you mean?

    Third Official: Well, smoking's been taxed, drinking's been taxed but not... thingy.

    Politician: Good Lord, you're not suggesting we should tax... thingy?

    First Official: Poo poo's?

    Third Official: No.

    First Official: Thank God for that. Excuse me for a moment. (leaves)

    Third Official: No, no, no - thingy.

    Second Official: Number ones?

    Third Official: No, thingy.

    Politician: Thingy!

    Second Official: Ah, thingy. Well it'll certainly make chartered accountancy a much more interesting job.

  • AndyWingall||

    Government always says everything is for the public's own good. Another Crook County money grab is the red light cameras; although studies worldwide prove they actually cause more accidents then prevent them and they've even been ruled unconstitutional, Chicago still uses them to collect from citizens, and I'm guessing a large chunk of those people are minorities, some probably unable to afford $100 tickets. Nevertheless, the city keeps saying how it's about safety and security YET THE AGENCY IN CHARGE OF THE RED LIGHT CAMERAS IS THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE! You can't make shit like that up.

  • SemperFi1371||

    Living in a major metropolitan city has costs, this is one of them, didn't bother me an iota, but then I make pretty good dough. Of course those that don't make much or are destitute won't pay this tax anyway, so I don't see what the crying is all about.

  • Paper Wasp||

    Yeah, but how much you make ain't the point, is it Semp? I make good money, too, but it's actually...stay with me here...my money, not the government's.

    It's a few pennies on a soda here, a couple bucks on an alcoholic beverage there, a $3 toll to drive this road, a $5 toll to drive that road, $8 to park here, $10 to park there, $0.49 added to each gallon of gas I purchase, another 1% added on to my property tax FOR DA PWESHUS CHYLDWUN because apparently there's no such thing as a normal kid anymore, they're all a bunch of defective autism-spectrum attention-deficit sensory-processing-retarded dyslexic drooling fucking livestock who can't cope with even benign normal stimuli, so we've got to pay way more money so the public schools can take over surrogate-parenting their retarded asses.

    Before you know it, more than half my fat check is disappearing to pay for shit I never use in my life (except the roads), with no accountability and no refunds if what comes out of the "program" is a complete shitshow.

  • Empress Trudy||

    The only reason it's being rolled back is it costs more to run than it takes.

  • Davulek||

    "Preckwinkle has at least been more honest about the tax, saying "we chose as a revenue generator a sweetened beverage tax, which had been enacted around the country"

    Really? Around the country? There are 6-7 municipalities out of 39,044 municipalities in the U.S. that have a sugary drink tax. What a freaking liar she is.

  • Drake||

    Sickening, sugary drinks? They're called pops, you stupid bitch, and they're fucking delicious. The reason kids get fat is because they don't exercise or go outside. Drop dead, you slaver cunt.

  • jcbinok||

    Glad to say I've been against soda taxes wherever they've been proposed. Amazing how the folks in Berkeley were so elated when they raised their own taxes. Weird.

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