Preckwinkle delays soda tax repeal vote

Preckwinkle delays soda tax repeal vote

With mounting pressure, a vote on the repeal of the soda tax was delayed for another month.

After significant pressure from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other allies, county Commissioner Sean Morrison, R-Palos Park, made a motion to refer to committee his soda tax repeal ordinance.

Citing the sweetened beverage tax’s mass unpopularity and implementation problems, Morrison and county Commissioners Richard Boykin, D-Oak Park, John A. Fritchey, D-Chicago, Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett, and Jeffrey R. Tobolski, D-McCook filed an ordinance to repeal the unpopular tax.

Morrison had intended to use a procedural maneuver to suspend the rules and immediately call the item to a vote. Rule 2-107 (z) (1) allows for the suspension of rules provided two-thirds of commissioners (12) approve. Citing a desire for a full vetting of the repeal, Morrison opted to have the matter proceed by way of standard operating procedure.

The item is now in the hands of county Commissioner John Daley, D-Chicago, and the Finance Committee. It’s expected that a hearing will be held Oct. 10 or 11, leaving taxpayers waiting weeks and possibly even months for a resolution. Even if the repeal vote passes by a simple majority (9 votes), Preckwinkle is likely to veto. Commissioners would then be required to obtain a three-fifths majority (11 votes).

When the Cook County Board originally approved the tax in November 2016, the board voted 8-8 with Preckwinkle casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of the measure. Those who voted in favor of the tax were county Commissioners Daley, Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, Jerry “Iceman” Butler, D-Chicago, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, Stanley Moore, D-Chicago, Ed Moody, D-Crestwood, Deborah Sims, D-Chicago, and Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston.

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.

Supporters of the tax celebrate it as a way to reduce the negative health effects of sugar consumption, but they fail to see this tax for what it is: a cash grab. Instead of piling on residents who already face some of the highest property and sales taxes in the nation, the Cook County Board should find real solutions to the county’s fiscal crisis.

Voters are expressing their displeasure over this notorious tax. Commissioners should listen.

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