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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Repeal New Cook County Beverage Tax

Five Republican Illinois representatives introduced Tuesday new legislation aimed at repealing the controversial sweetened beverage tax in Cook County. 

State Reps. Michael McAuliffe, Christine Winger, Peter Breen, Grant Wehrli and Keith Wheeler announced HB 4082 Tuesday morning, calling the new tax a "cash grab."

"During the past two weeks on the recently enacted cook county pop tax I’ve heard overwhelmingly negative reaction to that," McAuliffe said. 

"This tax places an unfair burden on residents and puts business at a disadvantage," Winger said. 

The penny-per-ounce tax went into effect earlier this month and has since been met with a slew of legal challenges including a lawsuit from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

County officials passed it to balance their budget, and without it Board President Toni Preckwinkle said service cuts would be brutal.  

Still, the group of representatives say the tax hits families hard in the wallet. 

"I've heard firsthand the severity this tax has alreayd had in its first two weeks, talking firsthand with businesses in my district," Winger said. "Some say sales have already dropped by 80 percent on the affected products."

The Illinois Department of Human Services, in conjunction with USDA, said last week it had advised Cook County the tax violates federal law, specifically in relation to how the tax affects low-income families.

The USDA says SNAP consumers are specifically exempt under federal law from paying taxes on those purchases. The board says it will work with the USDA to address the concerns.

Becoming the latest group to challenge the tax, the group of lawmakers said they hope to bring the legislation to a House vote as soon as possible, claiming it needs to be "signed into law immediately."

"This tax is unfair and constituents in my area are sick and tired of paying more and more taxes," McAuliffe said. "This is something that needs to go away."

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