Saturday, July 29, 2017

‘Pop’ goes the soda, tax to take effect

Interesting to see that Cook County government officials were quick to praise the judge who on Friday issued the order that allows the county to start taxing sweetened beverages as of Wednesday.
People will soon have to start taking tax into account

That tax was supposed to take effect July 1, and county board President Toni Preckwinkle said that Cook County lost some $17 million for not being able to charge the one cent per ounce tax on pop and othered sugared drinks.

COUNTY OFFICIALS HAD said that if the tax were not eventually implemented, county government’s finances would come up short this year and next – and some 1,100 people would have to lose their jobs. As things went, some 300 people were given layoff notices earlier this month.

So does this mean with Judge Daniel Kubasiak ruling that the tax can take effect and cannot be construed as being too confusing for people to comprehend that county government workers jobs’ are safe?

Not so fast!

As Preckwinkle put it, “until we are able to fully implement and collect revenue from this tax, we will continue to review our financial position and make adjustments accordingly.”

COUNTY OFFICIALS HAD said the tax would raise some $67.5 million through Dec. 1, and some $200 million during the county’s 2018 fiscal year. Will it be just a matter of subtracting the $17 million loss – or will other factors come into play?

Who’s to say just how long it will take before things stabilize. Or if it turns out that the tax shortfall will turn out to be merely an excuse, and if some people on the county government payroll will wind up losing their jobs regardless?

Personally, I found it interesting the way various groups were ready to rant with their pre-formed statements of praise or outrage. It makes me think what would have been most interesting is if someone had inadvertently hit the wrong button on the computer and sent out the statement that was intended to express themselves in the event the “pop tax” had withered away for good.

For what it’s worth, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association says it’s “disappointed,” and they’re “exploring all legal options.”

WHILE THE ILLINOIS Public Health Institute says it is “gratified” to see the tax take effect – but for quite the back-handed reason. They hope that adding about 20 cents to the cost of a single-serve plastic pop bottle, and about 65 cents to the cost of a 2-liter bottle, causes people to think in terms of consuming less in the way of carbonated beverages.

“The sooner people stop drinking sweetened beverages, the sooner we expect to see a decline in the chronic diseases caused by too much sugar,” institute officials said, in a prepared statement.

Which I suppose makes sense in theory – I know I have tried during the past year or so to reduce the amount of carbonated drink I consume (although I still enjoy the occasional can of Coca-Cola).

But I also note the number of times I have waited in line at a cashier to purchase that can of pop – only to have people ahead of me making their purchases of cigarette packages.

WHICH ALSO FACE many significant taxes that are supposed to discourage people from smoking, but instead just create intense levels of grumbling about how much a pack of “smokes” costs these days.

That might also make the ultimate beneficiary a business I remember from when I was a kid living near the Illinois/Indiana border – they sold cheap pop, cartons of cigarettes and fireworks. It was right on the state line – making it alluring to those who felt compelled to have such items.
Will 'cheap pop' attract more people to these border businesses?
There are many other such businesses in existence in the border areas surrounding Cook County, and there always will be certain people eager to save a few pennies on these particular purchases.

But if it turns out that the surrounding counties claim some sort of financial benefit from the Cook tax, I’d have to say they can have that form of “economic development” if it means we can reach some sort of higher purpose.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Just a thought – the kind of people who enjoy a “soda” with their hot dog are the same kinds who are probably eager to rush out to the grocery store and start buying Heinz-brand “Chicago Dog Sauce.” And we all remember what “Dirty” Harry Callahan thinks about people who put ketchup on their hot dogs.

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