CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County’s budget hearings have begun this week under the cloud of a deficit created by the eradication of the unpopular soda tax.
Officials agree there will be cuts and layoffs, but may not agree where they will come from.
Tanya Anthony, Cook County Budget Director, helped lead off the budget meetings by hammering home the deficit the government is facing. “Today, we stand with an additional gap of $200.6 million resulting from the board vote to repeal the sweetened beverage tax.”
County Commissioner Sean Morrison, who led the repeal fight, says Anthony and Chief Financial Officer Ammar Rizki need to help close that gap. “You folks, the President’s Administration’s is going to have to provide for us the road-map in which and where we consider those cuts or eliminations.”
However, Commissioner Deborah Sims, says the County board created this problem, adding, “So now we’re the ones that have to deal with it. It’s not Tanya’s job to deal with it, nor Ammar’s, it’s ours.”
It’s also the job of the elected officials who each have their own budgets.
The original 2016 vote on the sweetened beverage tax was a tie, which County Board President Toni Preckwinkle broke to approve it. Three commissioners who originally voted for the tax, eventually switched sides.
Commissioners voted on Oct. 11 to repeal the widely unpopular tax, effective Dec. 1. The 15-2 vote reflected the overwhelming opposition the tax faced among Cook County residents. Recent polls showed more than 85 percent of people in the county were against the tax.
Preckwinkle had defended the tax, saying it was necessary to fund essential county services, but has said she will work with the board to balance the budget without the estimated $200 million in annual revenue.
The sweetened beverage tax will remain in place through the end of the county’s current fiscal year, and will go away beginning Dec. 1.