Cook County

Proposal to Repeal Controversial Sugary Drink Tax Moves Forward

A plan to repeal Cook County's sugary drink tax moved forward Tuesday, after the Cook County Board's Finance Committee voted in favor of ending the controversial tax.

After several hours of testimony, the committee voted 15 to 1 to advance the proposal, which would phase out the tax on Dec. 1, at the start of the new fiscal year.

The vote took place just two months after the tax took effect in the area, and the full board will vote on the repeal plan Wednesday. 

All 17 commissioners sit on the Finance Committee, and only 11 votes are needed to override a possible veto by Board President Toni Preckwinkle. 

Last week, Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison said there would likely be enough votes to do that. 

"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. 

“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.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin also 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.

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. 

Preckwinkle has repeated her warning that massive budget cuts and layoffs could result if the penny-per-ounce tax is repealed, with an 11 percent cut across the board currently on the table if the measure is overturned next week.

Health clinics, prosecutors and public defenders could be impacted as well as perhaps security for local elections and even the mailing of property tax bills on time, she said. 

Still, the tax has fueled much public outcry from both shoppers and business owners in the country. 

Commissioner John Daley, Chairman of the Finance Committee, informed Preckwinkle prior to Tuesday's vote that he planned to vote for the repeal.

Daley, who was one of the eight commissioners that helped pass the measure earlier this year, said 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." 

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."

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