Tuesday, October 10, 2017

EXTRA: ‘Pop tax’ shifts – you can buy cheaper pop in Cook Co. come Dec. 1

Cook County Board members voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to support an ordinance that repeals the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages – the tax that was enacted with a tie vote that had to be broken by board President Toni Preckwinkle herself.

SUFFREDIN: Lone remaining tax backer
Which means that the American Beverage Association’s “Can the Tax” lobbying effort was heard loud-and-clear.

IT DOESN’T MEAN that there was really a consensus of thought about this issue – which was supposed to raise some $200 million per year to balance out the budget and ensure that county-run healthcare programs and facilities would be fully funded.

All but one of the county board members who previously supported the tax (Larry Suffredin of Evanston was the lone 'no' vote) voted “aye” in favor of the ordinance to repeal the measure that came up Tuesday during a finance committee session.

But some of the people who previously supported the pop tax made it clear they weren’t happy about feeling pressure to vote to repeal it come Dec. 1 – which is the date that a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year takes effect.

Jesus Garcia, D-Chicago, said government officials will have to deal with potential budget shortfalls when they give approval to that new budget sometime next month.

“RESIDENTS OF COOK County sent a strong message how they felt about this revenue measure we tried to utilize to balance out the budget,” the former mayoral candidate said. “This budget is a statement about our morality, values and compassion, or lack thereof. We still face a revenue challenge to provide services to the needy.”

While Stanley Moore, D-Chicago, said he thinks he should get credit for initially supporting the pop tax. “I have shown I will take the hard vote, if need be,” adding he fears there will be “cut, cut, cut, cut at the expense of the disenfranchised.”

Suffredin, the lone opponent of pop tax repeal, said he believes the county suffers financially because Illinois government is not providing the full amount of reimbursement it is supposed to provide for healthcare programs.

While Deborah Sims, D-Chicago, said she was bothered by being pressured to change her vote. “It’s not fair that nine of us (who supported the pop tax) take the heat, and everybody else walks away free.”

NOT THAT EVERYBODY was concerned about reductions in healthcare services by Cook County government. Jeffrey Tobolski, R-McCook, said he anticipates such cuts in spending.

“What we have (in revenue) is what we have to work with, there are some tough decisions that will have to be made,” he said.

As for the politicking, Richard Boykin, D-Oak Park, said he was “overjoyed and elated this tax is going to go away.” Although Tobolski was most blunt, saying, “I’m glad this damned thing is over.”

Of course, we’ll get to re-do the issue again Wednesday, as the county board will meet as a full board, rather than as a committee, which means that Jerry “Iceman” Butler, D-Chicago, will get his chance to add his thoughts for the record – assuming he shows up for the county board meeting rather than being absent, as he was on Tuesday for the finance committee session.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The official info that Cook County government put forth to try to justify the pop tax they enacted Nov. 10, 2016 that took effect at the beginning of August of this year.

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