County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has said the tax is needed to balance the county budget and avoid cuts to essential services, was not at the Finance Committee meeting. Afterward her office said she was “disappointed” by the vote, but would would work with the board to balance the budget without the revenue from the tax. “As I outlined last week, it is up to the commissioners to choose our direction on revenue, and I respect their authority to do so. Now, together, we must chart a new course toward the eighth consecutive balanced budget of my tenure as board president,” Preckwinkle said in a prepared statement. “As I noted last month, the difficult fight for this revenue has focused me on what matters most: doing the hard work necessary to build a healthier, safer and more efficient Cook County. That work continues.”The original 2016 vote on the sweetened beverage tax was a tie, which Preckwinkle broke to approve it. Three commissioners who originally voted for the tax — Daley, Garcia, and Moore — switched sides last week. Deer, who wasn’t on the board for the original vote, also came out against the tax last week, giving opponents enough votes to repeal the tax and survive a possible veto. At Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, three more commissioners who approved the tax last year defected — Arroyo, Moody, and Sims. During public testimony on Tuesday, Celeste Garcia, who runs a community group, expressed outrage the commissioners were moving to repeal a tax estimated to bring in $200 million a year for health programs, and things like legal help for residents. “Why are you trying to repeal the sugar tax today, but you don’t have any plan on how you’re going to fill this debt? Maybe you should come up with how you’re going to fill the debt before you repeal the tax,” she said. Commissioner Richard Boykin, one of the most outspoken critics of the tax, said the board would not let health care for the poor suffer because of revenue lost from eliminating the tax. “We want everybody to have the health care that they deserve. Nobody wants citizens to get lesser health care at the county,” he said. Preckwinkle has warned the county could face 11 percent across-the-board cuts without the tax in place. During Tuesday’s hearing, officials from various county department warned of potential cuts that would come if the tax is repealed. County Undersheriff Zelda Whittler spoke about the cuts that would be required by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. “If we are required to reduce our budget by the additional 11 percent, it will be devastating. We’re talking about an elimination of 302 … correctional officer positions, 124 police positions,” she said. Commissioner Bridget Gainer sought to assure county officials and the public those effects would be dealt with as part of the annual budget process. “This isn’t the end of the discussion today. This is just the beginning, and this is exactly what the process was built for; which is taxes need to be considered in a budget, any reductions need to be considered in the budget,” she said. Boykin has suggested the board could make up for the lost revenue through a hiring freeze, eliminating vacant positions, and holding the line on pay raises. Preckwinkle presented a budget plan last week that relies on the soda tax revenue. Budget hearings were scheduled to begin in about two weeks.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County’s soda tax has officially lost its fizzle. Commissioners voted Wednesday afternoon 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. The only two commissioners to vote against the tax were Evanston Democrat Larry Suffredin and Chicago Democrat Jerry Butler. County Board President Toni 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 tax will remain in place through the end of the county’s current fiscal year, and will go away beginning Dec. 1. More to come…
CHICAGO (CBS) — In a near-unanimous vote, the Cook County Finance Committee has approved a plan to repeal the controversial sweetened beverage tax, effective Dec. 1, setting up a final showdown on Wednesday. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin was the only member of the Cook County Board to vote against the proposal to eliminate the penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks and other sugary beverages, after three more commissioners who originally voted for it defected on Tuesday. A final vote on repealing the tax would come at Wednesday’s meeting of the full board, but unless any board members change their mind again by then, the tax is all but certain to go away. The commissioners who voted to repeal the tax included: Luis Arroyo Jr. (D-Chicago); Richard Boykin (D-OakPark); John Daley (D-Chicago); Dennis Deer (D-Chicago); John Fritchey (D-Chicago); Bridget Gainer (D-Chicago); Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago); Gregg Goslin (R-Glenview); Stanley Moore (D-Chicago); Edward Moody (D-Chicago Ridge); Sean Morrison (R-Palos Park); Tim Schneider (R-Bartlett); Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park); Deborah Sims (D-Chicago); and Jeffrey Tobolski (D-McCook). Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) was absent.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The 2 Investigators take on the pop tax politics. The tax could be repealed Tuesday, but as CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports, it was a sweet deal for some politicians who may now vote against it. CBS: You’re seeing a lot of commissioners getting a lot of big checks? “Well you’re seeing, especially some swing votes, bring in some money from a lot of different sources,” said Sarah Brune, who’s with the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. For example, commissioners Edward Moody, Stanley Moore, Dennis Deer and Deborah Sims were all considered potential swing votes. And on one Sept. day, they each received $26,800 — in legal campaign contributions. “This is a righteous fight and a just cause,” said County Board Commissioner Richard Boykin. Boykin, who is a long-time opponent of the tax, recently received a total of $10,000 in campaign money from soda companies and their employees — a sign that big money is flowing from both sides. “This tax has caused the largest customer outrage that we’ve ever experienced,” Frank Guiglio said, who manages Tony’s Finer Foods, which has 13 locations in Cook County. Centrally located County stores are down 25-30 percent in pop sales, and it’s Collar County stores are down a staggering 40 percent. The tax was initially sold as a way to avoid county government layoffs. If it is not repealed, it could have the opposite effect in the soda aisle. CBS: Will you have to lay people off? “If it doesn’t get repealed, there’s a good change we’ll definitely have reduction in hours, yes,” Guiglio said. Moore, one of the commissioners who got nearly $27,000 from pro pop tax donors, says the campaign donations didn’t come with any stipulations. He voted for the tax in Nov., but now says he’ll vote to repeal it. CBS 2 reached out to the other commissioners, but did not hear back.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Dozens of government, business, and civic leaders gathered downtown on Monday to discuss the bid to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to the Chicago area. Former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley said he thinks Chicago has a good chance at landing Amazon’s new facility, which the company has said will create up to 50,000 jobs. “Business community, civic community, charitable community is all together, and the political leadership is driving this. So it was a good message, good meeting,” Daley said after the meeting at the Chicago Cultural Center. State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) was among several Republicans – including Gov. Bruce Rauner – who joined forces with Democrats in a rare moment of unity to discuss how to convince Amazon to build its second headquarters in Illinois. “We can put our partisan differences aside, we can come together, provide the leadership we need to land this very important economic development interest for the people of Illinois,” he said. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the Chicagoland area has a lot to offer Amazon. “We have a wonderful location, and have always been a hub of the Midwest, and the center of the country,” he said. Several people at the invite-only meeting spoke of Chicago’s diversity as a major selling point. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has showed of the Old Main Post Office as a possible home for Amazon, but it’s unclear how many possible sites the city will propose to Amazon. Others mentioned as possible sites include the Thompson Center, the old Michael Reese Hospital site, the now-vacant Finkl Steel plant, and a plot south of Roosevelt Road along the Chicago River. Tribune Media also has released plans to redevelop its 30-acre Freedom Center printing plant site on the Chicago River, and submitted the proposed River District in an effort to land Amazon’s second headquarters. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said it’s unclear which or how many sites would be included in the city’s official bid to Amazon, including three possibilities in his ward; but he said it’s clear any feuding between Democrats and Republicans must end for now. “I think this is a great opportunity for all of us to agree not to agree on everything, but one thing we agree on is our economy and jobs,” he said. Competition for the facility is expected to be stiff, as its expected to bring up to 50,000 new jobs with an average pay of $100,000 a year.
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.”
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County commissioners who have gone sour on the unpopular sweetened beverage tax appeared on the verge of getting rid of it, after three more members of the county board announced Friday they’ll vote to repeal it. After Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago) announced Thursday he was switching sides and would vote to repeal the tax, Commissioners Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) and Stanley Moore (D-Chicago) — who also originally voted for it — followed suit and changed their votes on Friday. Commissioner Dennis Deer (D-Chicago), who wasn’t on the board last year, also came out against the tax. Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-Palos Park) has unveiled a new plan to repeal the tax, effective Dec. 1. The measure has been sponsored by a total of 12 board members – one more than they would need to override a possible veto by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has fought hard to keep the penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks. The board was split 8-8 over the tax last year, and Preckwinkle cast the tie-breaking vote to pass it. The tax went into effect in August, after it was delayed by a month due to an attempt to block it in court. Morrison said his colleagues came to realize most of their constituents oppose the tax. “The citizens of Cook County don’t want the tax, and they have spoken in a chorus that’s been so loud, it’s been unprecedented; and we really need to listen to them,” he said. Garcia asked that the repeal be delayed until the start of the next fiscal year, so Morrison’s repeal plan would keep the tax in place through Nov. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. On Thursday, Preckwinkle urged commissioners to stand by the tax as she presented her budget plan for next year. She said the county was relying on $200 million in revenue from the tax next year, and without that money officials would be forced to make dramatic cuts to vital services, including health care and public safety. Opponents of the tax have suggested the county can make up for the lost revenue largely through eliminating vacant positions, holding the line on salary increases, and implementing a hiring freeze. However, Morrison’s proposal does not outline any specifics for spending cuts. “I’m committed to working in a bipartisan and constructive manner with all of my board colleagues, President Preckwinkle and her administration to take the needed steps to find the fiscal solutions to create and balanced and responsible 2018 Budget for Cook County,” Morrison said. Although the repeal plan has enough votes to survive a veto from Preckwinkle, she was not conceding defeat yet on Friday. “President Preckwinkle mapped out for commissioners yesterday the two divergent paths they face for FY 18. The Finance Committee vote is Tuesday and final Board action would not come until Wednesday. We’ll withhold any further comment until that time,” spokesman Frank Shuftan said in an email. Morrison said the tax was sold under false pretenses that it would improve health. “The whole health was just a farcical narrative that was used to try and fool people. I mean, it was just disingenuous to begin with. Morrison said revenue from the tax has fallen far short of the Preckwinkle administration’s projections already. The county expected to get about $9 million a month from the tax, but Morrison said only $300,000 was collected in August, which means consumers either weren’t buying soda, or were going to other counties to do so. The Finance Committee was scheduled to vote on the repeal plan on Tuesday, and a full board vote could follow on Wednesday.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle put commissioners on notice that a vote to repeal the controversial soda tax will mean cuts to vital services. Preckwinkle unveiled her plan for the budget, based on having the estimated $200-million from the soda tax. She told commissioners they have reached a moment of truth ahead of Tuesday’s vote. WBBM’s Nancy Harty reports. “In this moment we will decide together who we are and where we are going,” Preckwinkle said. “There’s no longer space to rail against the tax, but secretly hope your colleagues absorb the political heat for you because you know we need this revenue,” Preckwinkle said. Afterwards Commissioner John Fritchey did not appear to be moved by Preckwinkle’s argument that without the tax, the county must cut healthcare, gun violence prevention and other programs. “I think that we may have to make difficult choices and that’s part of governing,” Fritchey said. “It’s easy to be an elected official when everything is good.” Before her speech, members of the public weighed in including Mike Newman, deputy director of Ask Me Council 31. “Repealing this tax without a viable, genuine alternative is morally bankrupt,” he said. That prompted an exchanged with tax opponent and sceptic, Commissioner Richard Boykin. “You received 130 layoff notices after the TRO was instituted. How many of your employees actually lost their job?” Boykin said. “None of our members have been actually – hit the street,” Newman said. Some commissioners question Preckwinkle’s dire predictions of up to 300 layoffs if they vote to repeal the tax.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Cook County commissioner who voted against the controversial sweetened beverage tax predicted his fellow opponents have the votes to approve a plan to repeal it, but it’s not clear if the vote could survive a near-certain veto by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Commissioner John Fritchey has co-sponsored an effort to repeal the tax, and he said he expects there are at least nine commissioners on board with the plan. “I am cautiously optimistic. If I was a betting man, I’d think that we have the votes to repeal the tax, but before anybody gets too excited about that, I would fully expect – at this point, at least – a veto of the repeal by the board president, and then we’ll see if the votes to override that veto,” he said. A vote on Commissioner Richard Boykin’s plan to repeal the tax has been scheduled for Tuesday in the county board’s Finance Committee. Nine votes would be needed to approve the plan, but Preckwinkle likely would veto that vote, and opponents would need at least 11 votes to override. Opponents and supporters of the tax both have spent millions of dollars on ads that have saturated radio and TV before the vote. The board was split 8-8 over the tax last year, and Preckwinkle cast the tie-breaking vote to pass it. The tax went into effect in August, after it was delayed by a month due to an attempt to block it in court. Boykin has proposed a plan to make up for the lost revenue largely through spending cuts – such as a hiring freeze, closing vacant positions, and holding the line on salary increases.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Amid an effort to repeal the controversial sweetened beverage tax, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle refused to say Wednesday whether the budget plan she’ll unveil on Thursday relies on revenue from the tax. Preckwinkle would not say if she has prepared two budget proposals – one including the soda tax, and one without it. “You’ll have to wait till my budget address. It’ll be available to you at 10 o’clock in the morning, and I’ll give my address at 11,” she said. However, Preckwinkle was very clear the county would need to make major cuts to health care and public safety programs if revenue from the sweetened beverage tax is lost. “Our chief financial officer issued to every commissioner last Friday a fiscal note on the loss of revenue,” she said. “I think it’s $11 million to the end of this fiscal year, and it’s something like $200 million in every successive year.” Commissioner Richard Boykin has introduced a proposal to repeal the penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks. The county’s Finance Committee was scheduled to debate the measure on Oct. 10, after Boykin failed to get enough support for an immediate vote at last month’s board meeting. The board was split 8-8 over the tax last year, and Preckwinkle cast the tie-breaking vote to pass it. The tax went into effect in August, after it was delayed by a month due to an attempt to block it in court. Boykin has proposed a plan to make up for the lost revenue largely through spending cuts – such as a hiring freeze, closing vacant positions, and holding the line on salary increases.
CHICAGO (CBS) — In the latest salvo over Cook County’s controversial sweetened beverage tax, retailers trotted out numbers to back up their demand to repeal the tax. Joseph Butera, owner of the supermarket chain bearing his family’s name, said ever since the soft drink tax went into effect, beverage sales have dropped. “At our store in Norridge, for example, our beverage sales are down 47 percent,” he said. Illinois Food Retailers Association President Brian Jordan said stores like Leamington Foods in the Lawndale neighborhood have seen customers leave to shop elsewhere, because of the tax. “One out of 32 retail locations in Cook County has seen a decline in beverage sales, and some have even seen beverage sales decline nearly 50 percent,” he said. “Over 40 percent of the stores have seen a 30 percent decrease in beverage sales, and over 15 percent of the stores reporting have seen a 40 percent or greater decrease in beverage sales.” Frank Guiglio, district manager for Tony’s Fresh Market, said many of his customers are now shopping outside of Cook County. “I have never, ever seen the outrage and anger that’s being displayed by our customers in Tony’s regarding this excessive and abusive beverage tax,” he said. Valley Produce owner Laurie Tenutia said stores not only are losing beverage sales, but other food sales, as shoppers pick up other groceries outside Cook County when they go to buy soda and other sugary drinks. “They’re not going to come to us just for groceries anymore. They’re going to go make the one stop, and buy whatever they need. So we are going to drop drastically in sales. Our business, because of it, has dropped 11 percent,” she said. “Sadly, lower sales mean that we have to cut down hours for all of our working employees.” Retailers said the tax should be repealed for the benefit of workers and business owners. The Preckwinkle administration has defended the tax, citing health and revenue reasons for keeping it in place. Opponents of the tax on the Cook County Board have introduced a plan to repeal it, and a Finance Committee meeting has been scheduled for next month to debate the proposal. However, it’s unclear if commissioners behind the repeal effort have the votes to do away with the tax. At least nine votes would be needed, and even if that were to happen, Board President Toni Preckwinkle could veto the repeal plan, and the board would need 11 votes to override.