Cook County Board approves soda tax

Cook County Board approves soda tax

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of new tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages.

The Cook County Board approved a new penny-per-ounce tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages on Nov. 10. The board was in an 8-8 stalemate until Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the measure, claiming that it would raise much-needed revenue to avoid critical cuts to criminal justice and health care systems, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

The new tax is expected to collect $224 million a year and raise additional tax dollars for the proposed $4.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2017. The tax, which will go into effect in July 2017, will increase the cost of a 99-cent can of soda to $1.11, and would boost the cost of a 20-ounce bottle to $2.39 from $2.19, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

In addition to soft drinks, other beverages that fall under the net of this tax include lemonade, sports drinks, sweet tea, fruit juices and any other beverage with sugar or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, a key ingredient in many low-calorie and diet drinks.   

Opponents of the measure included the American Beverage Association and Illinois Retail Markets Association, who claimed it was a regressive tax that would hit poorest families hardest, according to the Chicago Tribune. Advocates of the tax include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, famous for his attempt to ban Big Gulps in New York City.  

This tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages is simply the latest cash grab in a long line of tax hikes by Cook County. Last November, the Cook County Board under Preckwinkle’s leadership approved and passed a sales tax hike, an amusement tax, an ammunition tax, a hotel tax, an e-cigarette liquid tax and a $20 increase in fees per lawsuit filed.  

Then, like now, Preckwinkle claimed that the need to raise revenue through new taxes was absolutely essential for critical services and did not discount the possibility of more taxes for Cook County residents for the 2017 budget.  

The new tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages, like the whole slew of new taxes and tax hikes last November, is regressive. The people hurt most are middle- and working-class Cook County residents who already face some of the highest property and sales taxes in the nation. One Gallup study even showed that 45 percent of people making under $30,000 a year consume regular soda, as opposed to only 20 percent of those making over $75,000 a year. The study also found that people making less money are more likely to drink soda.  

Instead of pushing regressive taxes onto already cash-strapped Cook County residents, the Cook County Board should figure out real solutions to the county’s fiscal woes instead of taking more money from the people who can least afford it. 

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