Preckwinkle Defends Beverage Tax Amid Calls for Repeal

The Cook County board is expected to consider repealing the county’s controversial new beverage tax next week, but even in the face of public pressure Board President Toni Preckwinkle is still defending the measure.

“We had some tough choices last fall,” Preckwinkle told reporters. “It was either lay off nurses and doctors, state’s attorneys, public defenders and prison guards, or raise revenue.”

The new tax, which had been slated to take effect on July 1 but was delayed by legal challenges, is now in effect and taxes sugary beverages such as soda at a one cent-per-ounce rate. The measure, largely unpopular according to polls, has forced some board members to reconsider their stances, but Preckwinkle is not one of them.

“We hope and expect that on Sept. 13 that the repeal motion that will come to the floor will be moved to committee, and we’ll deal with it there,” she said.

With some Cook County residents heading to neighboring counties, and even to Indiana, to purchase sugary drinks, a new wave of ads from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in support of the measure have begun to air.

The ads are aimed at turning around public opinion about the tax, but it’s still an uphill climb. Recent poll suggest that over 50 percent of voters are less likely to vote for commissioners Deborah Sims (D-5th) and Stanley Moore (D-4th) because of their votes in support of the beverage tax.

Even with that public pressure, and with state lawmakers considering measures that would not only repeal the Cook County tax but also prevent other counties from enacting similar laws, Preckwinkle is undeterred.

“If I were them, I’d stick to their business and let us stick to ours,” she said. 

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