Cook County Soda Tax Prompts Protest, Calls For Repeal

CHICAGO (CBS) — Opponents of Cook County’s new beverage tax staged a protest across from the county building Tuesday morning.

Protesters chanted, “can the tax;” the rallying cry of the beverage industry that claims it will cost the county 6,000 jobs and $321 million in lost wages.

The tax is scheduled to take effect in Cook County Saturday, July 1.

Many of those standing in the plaza at the Thompson Center wore logos of the beverage companies they work for.

Thomas Jordan is among those worried he’ll lose his job at the Coke production facility in Alsip if people stop buying pop due to the penny-an-ounce tax.

“They’re just wiling to tax anything that they feel is selling. People buy pop, so they feel that they can tax it,” Jordan said.

Carol Bollacker says she’s worried the higher costs will prompt customers to cross into Will County or Indiana, as opposed to her hot dog stand in Lansing.

 

Brian Jordan, president of the Illinois Food Retailers Association, said it’s difficult to comply with the law when the county keeps changing it — like making retailers pay the taxes to the county upfront, then changing to include it in the purchase price.

Other speakers say the tax is regressive because it punishes consumers too poor to travel out of the county to buy their drinks.

Elissa Bassler however, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute, supports the tax, and points to studies that indicate that sugary drinks contribute to diabetes and other chronic disease.

“You still have the choice to drink what you want to drink,” Bassler said.

 

She refutes claims of job loses in places such as Philadelphia, which implemented a similar tax, saying a recent report showed wage growth in the first three months of this year.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to block the beverage tax. A court hearing is set for Wednesday morning at the Daley Center.

A spokesperson for Cook County board president, Toni Preckwinkle, says she will fight it “vigorously.”

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