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Beverage tax foes celebrate sweet victory

  • Written by Joe Boyle

beverage tax photo 10-12

Submitted photo

The Cook Board of Commissioners Finance Committee voted 15-1 on Tuesday to support Commissioner Sean Morrison’s (R-17th) ordinance to repeal the Cook County Beverage Tax.

 

After weeks of debate, the Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee voted 15-1 on Tuesday during the Committee of the Whole hearing to repeal the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax.

The commissioners approved the ordinance introduced and led by Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th). The momentum began to change to repeal the beverage tax last Thursday when Commissioner John Daley (D-11th), who has been a supporter of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, decided to vote for the repeal. Commissioners Jesus Garcia (D-7th) and Stanley Moore (D-4th) followed on Friday.

“I heard from my district and we are elected to represent our district,” said Daley. “I heard overwhelming opposition.”

Entering Tuesday’s hearing, Morrison said that there were at least 12 commissioners who would vote for repeal. With that many votes secured, it would prevent Preckwinkle from vetoing the measure. Elven votes were needed to override a veto.

But as the hearing continued for three and half hours, three more commissioners also voted for repeal. Commissioner Edward Moody (D-6th), whose district takes in portions of Worth and Chicago Ridge, originally backed the beverage tax but ultimately supported the repeal. Larry Suffredin (D-13th) was the lone commissioner to vote for the tax. Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-3rd) was absent from the meeting.

“I am pleased with today’s (Tuesday) outcome,” Morrison said. “I would like to thank my colleagues for working together so diligently and amicably to come to an agreement on such an important issue to our constituents and to Cook County.”

The board was scheduled to vote yesterday on the beverage tax but the results were to be a foregone conclusion after Tuesday’s hearing. With the vote, the beverage tax will likely end on Dec. 1 as the board will begin working a new budget.

Morrison said he is committed to working in a bipartisan manner with members of the board, Preckwinkle and her administration to find the appropriate fiscal solutions to create a balanced 2018 budget for Cook County.

Preckwinkle had proposed a new budget last Thursday that relied on $200 million a year she said would be raised through the beverage tax. Preckwinkle had warned that eliminating the beverage tax would result in 11 percent cuts across the board. The board president broke an 8-8 tiebreaker last November to implement the beverage tax, which was delayed initial approval until Aug. 2.

Since then, there had been an outcry of dissent from shoppers, many of whom were not only buying pop in Will County and other communities, but groceries as well. Public officials, led by Morrison, led the rebellion.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner was a vocal opponent early and spoke out at a hearing before the Cook County Board last month.

‘The sad truth is that we have Worth shoppers that are already going out of Cook County to shop,” Werner said. “And they are not only shopping for beverages, but for food, too. We are losing sales along 111th Street. Fairplay and Family Dollar, they are losing money.”

While the tax may be overturned, Werner said she is concerned that residents who have traveled to Will County may not return.

“I think certainly from hearing from our residents and some of our businesses that they were not pleased,” said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett. “The tax was burden for some of these citizens and businesses.”

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said he is relieved the beverage tax has been voted down.

“I’m very, very glad they are going to get rid of the beverage tax,” Tokar said. “I did get some complaints right away. I don’t think this was well thought out. It didn’t make any sense. It was almost incomprehensible. I mean you have a tax on one drink and another you didn’t. People weren’t shopping at Fairplay in Worth. It affected shopping at Jack and Pat’s.”

While the tax may be eliminated, Tokar still has concerns.

“At this point I’m not sure what we are dealing with,” he said. “Where are they going to come up with the money? Are they going to make cuts? We will have to see.”