Soda Tax Supporters Suggest Compromise Ahead Of Repeal Vote

CHICAGO (CBS) — With Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax apparently on the verge of being repealed, those fighting to keep it in place have suggested a compromise.

Illinois Public Health Institute CEO Elissa Bassler acknowledged it appears opponents of the tax have a veto-proof majority needed to repeal it, but she proposed the county instead should scale back the penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.

“Take the diet drinks out, and focus the tax on the most sugary beverages, which would realize about 65 to 75 percent of the revenue, and preserve most of the county services that we need,” she said. “We don’t understand why there’s not an effort to look at a partial repeal, why it’s been a black-and-white kind of argument, because it doesn’t really need to be.”

However, foes of the tax have called for a full repeal, and Illinois Restaurant Association president Sam Toia said the votes are there to do just that, after four commissioners who either voted for the tax or weren’t on the board when it was approved came out against it last week.

“Commissioner [Jesus “Chuy”] Garcia, Commissioner [John] Daley, Commissioner [Dennis] Deer, and Commissioner Stanley Moore; we thank them very much,” Toia said.

Daley announced Thursday that he would no longer support the soda tax, and would vote to repeal it. A day later, Commissioner Sean Morrison announced a new plan to repeal the tax, effective Dec. 1, and said Garcia, Moore, and Deer had joined him. The proposal Morrison presented was sponsored by a total of 12 commissioners, enough to survive a possible veto by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The county’s Finance Committee was scheduled to vote on the repeal measure on Tuesday, with a possible full County Board vote on Wednesday.

While Toia stood by the call for repealing the tax, he said business owners would consider what to do about the revenue that would be lost.

“We are business people. We understand you have to balance your budgets. We think there could definitely be cuts,” he said. “We also think that we would come to the table.”

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