Preckwinkle admits soda tax was ‘first and foremost’ about revenue
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle shared an admission that the soda tax was always about revenue.
On the eve of her Oct. 5 presentation of the 2018 budget to the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle finally admitted that the county’s sweetened beverage tax was always about increasing revenue.
“We chose as a revenue generator a sweetened beverage tax, which had been enacted around the country, both for the revenue and because of the health benefits,” she said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “But first and foremost, because of the revenue.”
This is hardly a shock in light of previous reports of Preckwinkle providing premium perks and bonuses to Teamsters Union Local 700, a government-worker union that has been in support of this tax from the beginning.
Unfortunately, this new revenue won’t be going to new or improved county services. Most of those dollars will go toward the county’s collapsing pension plan, which has only 56 cents on hand for every dollar it needs to pay out pension benefits.
The average pension for Cook County workers has grown nearly 5 percent per year since 2006. In contrast, median earnings for private sector workers in Cook County have grown at just 1.5 percent per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Understandably, Cook County residents have been vociferous in their opposition to the tax.
Shortly after its implementation, one poll commissioned by the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association found nearly 87 percent of Cook County residents disapprove of the tax and in the same poll 80 percent said they believed the tax was being done strictly for money and not for public health. Further, taxpayers are expressing their displeasure with the politicians who enacted and supported the tax by reportedly refusing to sign circulating petitions to simply place these individuals on the ballot in 2018, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
Despite the tax’s unpopularity, Preckwinkle has defended it as a means to reduce consumption of sugar. However, it’s unlikely to help the most vulnerable population of the county, as people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, are exempt from paying the tax. Due to federal regulations that prohibit applying state and local taxes to purchases made with SNAP benefits, more than 870,000 residents who receive SNAP benefits won’t have to pay the sweetened drink tax, according to the Chicago Tribune.
One such solution is sitting right under their noses – 401(k)-style retirement plans for new county workers.
A standalone 401(k)-style retirement plan for state university workers has been operating successfully in Illinois for nearly two decades, with more than 20,000 members.
Instead of passing new taxes in the name of residents’ health, Cook County can start to remedy its own fiscal illness by adopting a similar 401(k)-style plan for its workers.
Sign the petition
Repeal the Cook County pop tax
Sign the petition today to tell your Cook County commissioner to repeal the sweetened beverage tax.
Learn More >