Cook County

‘Beverage Tax Will Be History': Commissioners Say Votes Exist to Repeal Controversial Tax

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison announced Friday that the county's controversial sweetened beverage tax will likely be repealed when it is called for a vote next week, thanks to an agreement by a dozen commissioners. 

"After numerous negotiations over the last 48 hours, an agreement has been reached with 11 of my fellow commissioners to sign onto the Sweetened Beverage Tax Repeal Ordinance which will be called for a vote in the Finance Committee on Tuesday, October 10," Morrison said in a statement Friday morning. 

Morrison revealed he has submitted a new ordinance on the tax which would not repeal it immediately, but would phase it out Dec. 1, the new fiscal year.

“It has not been easy task but in the end, we have reached an agreement that will address the concerns of our residents and businesses and set forth a goal to chart a new fiscal course for Cook County,” Morrison said.

Only 11 votes are needed to override Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s veto.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin predicted Friday morning the votes are there to not only to repeal the controversial beverage tax, but to do so with a veto proof majority.

"The beverage tax will be history," Boykin said in a statement to NBC 5.

Commissioner John Daley, the Chairman of the Finance Committee for the county, has informed Preckwinkle that he will vote for the repeal of the controversial sweetened beverage tax.

Daley, who was one of eight commissioners that helped pass the measure earlier this year, says that his constituents resoundingly came out against the tax, and that he must honor their wishes as he represents them on the board.

“I’ve never had so many reach out to me before,” he said. "I have heard overwhelmingly from my district that they are opposed to this tax." 

The vote to repeal the measure is scheduled for next week, and Daley’s reversal of position could spell the end of the tax that has ginned up controversy since it went into effect this summer.

In order for the repeal effort to be successful, 11 commissioners will have to vote against it. Any fewer than that, and Preckwinkle has the power to veto the measure. 

One county board member initially said he would not be flipping his vote: former mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. 

"If we lose this source of revenue, we're going to have a significant crisis in basic services in Cook County," he said.

But on Friday, that changed. 

"When we voted on the soda tax, I made a tough decision that I believed was best for Cook County. I voted for a revenue source and a balanced budget so that the County could continue to provide critical services to residents," Garcia said in a statement Friday. "However, it has now become clear that there are enough votes to repeal this revenue measure. In order to repeal and phase out the soda tax in a responsible way, I have decided to co-sponsor legislation that will mitigate the effect of an immediate repeal on vital county services and allow for a more orderly transition."

When the tax originally passed, eight commissioners voted for it and eight voted against it, with Preckwinkle casting the tiebreaking vote to pass the measure. 

On Thursday, Preckwinkle once again reiterated her warning that massive budget cuts and layoffs could result if the tax is repealed, with an 11 percent cut across the board currently on the table if the measure is overturned next week.

The repeal vote is scheduled for Oct. 10.

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