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updated: 9/13/2017 8:43 AM

Cook County soda tax repeal vote could be delayed

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  • Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has supported a tax on sweetened beverages in Cook County, but a repeal of the tax could come up for a vote this week at the county board meeting.

    Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has supported a tax on sweetened beverages in Cook County, but a repeal of the tax could come up for a vote this week at the county board meeting.
    Associated Press File Photo

 
 

A motion to repeal Cook County's controversial sweetened beverage tax could be introduced on Wednesday, but there's no guarantee the measure will come up for a vote anytime soon.

According to Cook County Board rules, a new ordinance or amendment is first sent to committee, where it's voted on before being sent back to the full board.

Commissioner John Daley of Chicago, who chairs the board's finance committee and voted for the tax last November, has said he'll bring the anti-tax measure up for a vote but has not indicated exactly when. He did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Commissioner Tim Schneider, a Bartlett Republican and co-sponsor of the repeal ordinance, said board members who oppose the tax might move to suspend the rules to allow the ordinance to come immediately to the full board for a vote Wednesday. However, he said, the necessary votes might not be there. Eight of 17 commissioners initially voted to oppose the tax, and nine are needed for its repeal and to suspend the rules.

"There's a lot of maneuvering going on right now," Schneider said Tuesday. "Many of us would like to vote on this tomorrow and let things fall where they lie."

Cook County became the largest jurisdiction in the country to place a tax on sweetened beverages late last year. The penny per ounce tax applies to regular and diet soda as well as a number of other sweetened drinks.

Originally scheduled to go into effect in July, implementation of the tax was put on hold for a month due to a suit by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which said the tax was unconstitutional.

The suit was dismissed and the tax was put into effect after a month, but an appeal is pending.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a Chicago Democrat who supports the tax, said the $225 million it's expected to bring in will prevent countywide cuts to hospitals, the state's attorney's office and the county jail.

Blowback over the tax has turned into a nationally watched battle. Initially, several stores and restaurants throughout the county imposed the tax incorrectly or failed to do so at all.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, has announced he's spending $5 million on television and radio ads defending the tax as a key ally in the fight against childhood obesity. And Preckwinkle has enlisted the local support of African American pastors at churches throughout the county, who say the tax will have a positive effect on the health of their parishioners.

Members of the beverage and retail industries and local business owners have launched their own campaign to repeal the tax, with radio and television commercials, as well as polls that suggest commissioners who voted for the tax could lose their seats over the issue in next year's election.

Protesters of the tax also gathered across the street from the county building in downtown Chicago Tuesday.

If board members ultimately vote to repeal the tax, Preckwinkle could veto. County commissioners could then move to override her with a supermajority, or 11 votes.

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