Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cook County ‘pop tax’ upsets political structure’s sense of who matters

If you think about it, it’s really not surprising to learn that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, doesn’t think much of the penny-per-ounce pop tax being charged by Cook County government.
Is Preckwinkle's 'pop tax' really a threat ...

Republican political operatives are gloating at the very notion that Madigan, who usually is supportive of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is trying to concoct measures by which the pop tax would go away.

WHETHER THAT MEANS Madigan putting the strong-arm tactics to certain members of the Cook County Board to get them to shift their support from the tax that, in part, is supposed to help the county cover the cost of maintaining its hospitals and health care programs.

Or by having the General Assembly pass a law that would supersede the county’s ability to impose such a tax.

It could be either tactic. We’ll have to wait and see by which means Madigan attempts to undermine the county’s ability to use its taxing authority to raise money for itself.

In one sense, it could be perceived as the state meddling in county government business. But the reality is that all the layers of government do wind up getting intertwined. And other officials are now deciding to get involved in the pop tax because they’re fearful voters determined to vote “no” on the tax will wind up voting “no” on everything and anything.

IT WAS KIND of like a few years ago when then-county board President Todd Stroger tried balancing out the Cook County government budget with a boost in the county’s share of the sales tax.
... really a threat to Madigan majority?

Which combined with the state tax and any local taxes charged by municipalities. As many critics were quick to point out, the county’s increase drove the whole sales tax within the Chicago city limits to just over 10 percent.

Since the local political perception is that Chicago city government is most important and that Madigan’s long-time influence puts state government at a next rung, it means that the county had to assume a position of lesser importance.

Its sales tax hike had to go in order to get the overall sales tax in Chicago below 10 percent.

JUST AS NOW Madigan is fearing that his rank-and-file legislators in suburban Cook County might have their lives complicated when they run for re-election next year, IF the pop tax remains in place.
How quickly would Wrath of Rahm reign down on Toni?

So Cook County government, as an entity, may have to sacrifice its tax, because the carbonated beverages lobby (I refuse to use the label “Big Soda,” it just sounds so lame) doesn’t like the idea of anyone else making money off their products. People are just as offended by the 7-cent-per-plastic bag at stores in Chicago, yet nobody's telling the city they have to drop it!

I have to admit the pop lobbying effort appears more successful than that of the healthcare advocates, including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who failed to take on pop in his own city by restricting the sale of those 32-ounce cups of pop – which really are vulgar is you think seriously about such a portion.

My own thought is that, while I agree with the premise of the tax and think that trying to benefit a public health goal is noble, seeing vending machines reading “kidney failure” and “Type 2 Diabetes” is just a bit too phony – and just as lame as the “Big Soda” label.

SO NOW MADIGAN is going to get involved, for his usual reason – self-preservation. There have been many noble concepts throughout the years that have died political deaths because Madigan felt his Illinois House leadership would be threatened by such efforts. Although there is some legitimacy to the converse position -- you can't accomplish anything if you lose the prior election.
How phony Illinois GOP rhetoric can be at times

Of course, I found it somewhat ridiculous to read the Republican response Friday to this issue – they want us to believe that any Democrat who NOW votes against the pop tax is merely being “Madigan cronies simply following the leader.”

Not that I ever expect Democrats (or any Chicago interests) to be worthy in the minds of the Illinois Republican Party. It’s usually best to ignore the perception of GOPers who, at times, seem embarrassed to be from the “Land of Lincoln.”

All I know is that it is just as likely that if this tax does die a month or so from now and does result in county funding cuts for health care services, I fully expect many of those same people will shift their ire to the health care cuts! Some people are just determined to complain – no matter what the issue.


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