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updated: 10/6/2017 4:49 PM

Votes to repeal Cook County soda tax said to be veto-proof

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  • Opponents on the Cook County Board say they've got the votes to repeal the sweetened beverage tax.

      Opponents on the Cook County Board say they've got the votes to repeal the sweetened beverage tax.
    Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer

  • Sean Morrison

    Sean Morrison

 
 

Republican Cook County Board commissioners are claiming victory in the battle over the much-maligned sweetened beverage tax.

Commissioner Sean Morrison, a Palos Park Republican who led the crusade against the tax since its implementation, said Friday he has swayed enough of his Democratic colleagues on the board to repeal the tax at the board's Tuesday finance committee meeting. Morrison said he has 11 votes, which would make the repeal veto proof if it is passed.

Morrison's office issued a news release saying the tax, even if repealed, would run through Nov. 30, "to close out the final seven weeks" of the county's fiscal year and "provide a clean slate" for the board to begin the coming year's budget process.

The controversial penny-per-ounce tax was expected to raise $200 million a year, but it was met almost immediately with derision from retailers and consumers alike. A monthlong court battle eventually allowed the tax to go into effect in early August.

Morrison is joined by fellow Republicans Tim Schneider of Bartlett, Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park and Gregg Goslin of Glenview as well as Democrats Richard Boykin, John Fritchey, Jeffrey Tobolski, Bridget Gainer, Jesus Garcia, Stanley Moore, Dennis Deer and John Daley.

It was Daley's defection that led to enough repeal votes. He said he'd heard "overwhelming opposition" from constituents who didn't support the tax and he decided to side with them. Overnight, several more Democrats defected after Daley announced his decision Thursday.

"I think the board members came to realize they'll get caught in this firestorm in the lead-up to their reelection bids next year, particularly at primary time," said Schneider, chairman of the state GOP.

The tax was a cornerstone of board President Toni Preckwinkle's 2017 budget. She said this week that ending the tax would cause "significant cuts to public health and public safety, because that's where 87 percent of our money goes." She had no further comment on Friday's defections.

Preckwinkle had said the county spent millions defending the tax in court and initially attempted to recoup those costs from a lobbying group and businesses that sued the county to stop the tax, but eventually relented.

The Can the Tax Coalition on Friday declared "the vote can't come soon enough."

"Common sense has prevailed," a statement from the organization said.

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