Cook County’s controversial sugary drink tax has been repealed roughly two months after it took effect. Following legal battles and an outcry from both consumers and business owners, the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages will no longer be collected after December 1, 2017 which is the beginning of the county’s new fiscal year.
Despite Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and supporters touting the tax as a way to fight obesity, Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association says this was only about revenue for Cook County.
“Voters saw through the sham that she tried to sell being a public health issue," he says. "This was used to try to balance the cook county budget as opposed to making tough decisions and reigning in spending.”
The tax was expected to collect millions of dollars for Cook County and could result in layoffs. However, business owners say they were already suffering a profound negative impact on sales.
Denzler says this quick repeal changes the game for implementing use taxes in the future.
“Government certainly has a role in educating folks, but at the end of the day it’s up to the parents or a person’s individual choice," he says. "Again, I think one of the reason voters revolted and rejected this is because they’re tired of government telling them how to run their lives.”
Denzler says he hopes this will prompt Illinois to close what he calls a “glaring loophole” in state law that allows municipalities to tax based on volume sold. Legislation to change the law has been introduced in the General Assembly.