Commissioners challenge repressive Preckwinkle taxation

Commissioners challenge repressive Preckwinkle taxation

Commissioners challenge repressive Preckwinkle taxation

Several members of the Cook County Board on Wednesday introduced legislation to repeal the oppressive sales tax pushed by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, responding to outrage and anger from over taxed cook county residents.

By Ray Hanania

Calling Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s 1 cent per ounce sales tax on sweetened drinks and sodas “oppressive,” a coalition of Democratic and Republican members of the board unveiled legislation they said would repeal Preckwinkle’s burdensome new tax.

The ordinance was submitted to the board on Wednesday and is co-sponsored by Cook County Commissioners Sean Morrison, R-Palos Park; Jeffrey Tobolski, D-McCook; John A. Fritchey, D-Chicago: Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett; and Richard Boykin, D-Oak Park.

Preckwinkle bullied county board members to support the tax threatening massive lay-offs and service cuts if her tax increase failed. The tax was approved on Thursday November 10 by a 9 to 8 vote with 8 commissioners voting for the tax and 8 commissioners voting against. Preckwinkle was forced to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Two Chicago Democrats broke from Preckwinkle to oppose the tax and one suburbanite voted with Preckwinkle to approve the repressive consumer tax.

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison leads coalition to repeal repressive Preckwinkle tax on sweetened drinks and soda pop Aug. 9, 2017. Photo courtesy of Commissioner Sean Morrison

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison leads coalition to repeal repressive Preckwinkle tax on sweetened drinks and soda pop Aug. 9, 2017. Photo courtesy of Commissioner Sean Morrison

Voting for the tax were Luis Arroyo Jr., D-Chicago; Jerry “Iceman” Butler, D-Chicago; John Daley, D-Chicago; Jesus Garcia, D-Chicago; Edward Moody, D-Chicago Ridge; Stanley Moore, D-Chicago; Deborah Sims, D-Chicago; and Larry Suffredin, D-Chicago.

Moody was the sole suburbanite voting for the tax but was only recently appointed to fill the suburban vacancy following the death of Joan Murphy.

Voting against the tax were Boykin; Fritchey; Bridget Gainer, D-Chicago; Gregg Goslin, R-Glenview; Morrison; Schneider; Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park; and Tobolski.

Fritchey and Gainer broke with Preckwinkle’s Chicago Machine to oppose the tax.

Absent from the vote was Preckwinkle ally and Commissioner Robert Steele, D-Chicago, who was hospitalized the week prior to the vote.

Morrison opened the press conference declaring, “To the residents and businesses of Cook County, we have heard you loud and clear and so today I have filed an ordinance to repeal the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax.”

Sweet Beverage Tax, 1 cent per ounce on every drink that uses a sweetener or has a diet ingredient in Cook County

Sweet Beverage Tax, 1 cent per ounce on every drink that uses a sweetener or has a diet ingredient in Cook County

Morrison added in a press release after the press conference, “The Beverage Tax is an absolute disaster for Cook County. Residents and businesses are getting punished by it. After witnessing the tremendous fallout and public backlash, I believe there are some on the board who voted to support the tax that could re-consider their original vote and support this repeal.”

Commissioner Morrison said he believes the Beverage Tax is the wrong remedy for Cook County’s fiscal issues, adding, “There are alternative means to address those fiscal issues and we plan to present those remedies to President Preckwinkle as she prepares her 2018 budget proposal.”

Preckwinkle made the absurd argument claiming that sweetened drinks and soda pop were harmful to the public health, although if that were true, critics wondered outloud why she permits them to be sold in Cook County at all.

But Preckwinkle’s repressive soda tax was denounced as intentionally targeting suburbanites by critics who noted that the Preckwinkle tax excludes the poor who rely on SNAP benefits to purchase food from paying the tax.

“Does that mean that Preckwinkle only cares about the health of wealthy residents of Cook County, or, more likely, she is concerned with protecting many of her own voters in her own district,” one critic asserted noting that the majority of SNAP recipients live inside Chicago and fewer live int he suburbs.

“Clearly, this tax is intended to put the burden of Chicago’s problems on suburban taxpayers. Chicago politicians like Preckwinkle are always finding ways to make suburbanites pay for Chicago’s problems.”

In an unrelated move, the Chicago controlled Illinois legislature adopted a school funding package which strips funding from suburban schools and uses suburban tax dollars to increase funding for Chicago’s crime-ridden and poorly performing public school system.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) filed a lawsuit last month to prevent the repressive Preckwinkle tax from being implemented but last week a Cook County judge approved the tax. In response, Preckwinkle filed an oppressive lawsuit some called an “act of bullying” against the IRMA demanding recovery of $17 million Preckwinkle asserted the county lost by the month-long delay.

In response to the delay, Preckwinkle ordered the lay-off of hundreds of county workers, most living in the suburbs. When the judge reinstated her repressive tax, Preckwinkle said she would continue with the lay-offs. And, days after the tax began, Preckwinkle announced that she would seek $144 million in pay hikes for her patronage workers and supporters.

The repeal ordinance will be taken up by the Cook County Board on September 13. I call on all residents, businesses and municipal leaders to contact your Cook County Commissioner and encourage them to vote to repeal the Beverage Tax.

Morrison called on members of the public to attend the September 13 Cook County Board meeting to express their outrage against Preckwinkle’s sales tax increase.

The Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax has had a devastating impact on both Cook County residents and businesses since its enactment on August 2.

The bipartisan coalition of commissioners sponsoring the repeal ordinance believes it’s in the best interest of the public and Cook County government to repeal this regressive tax.

The long-term damage caused by this tax to Cook County’s local economy and to its residents greatly outweigh the short-term fiscal benefit it will provide to the county budget.

The controversy over Preckwinkle’s tax reminded many of the similar battle fought several years ago when former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger sought to impose a 1 Cent Sales tax on Cook County.

Morrison’s predecessor, Cook County Board Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, led a rebellion of commissioners who reversed the board’s initial action and forced a repeal of the tax, something pundits said could not happen.

The same media pundits claim that the repeal of the repressive Preckwinkle tax will not succeed either, but observers say that many businesses have been harmed economically by Cook County consumers who are fleeing to neighboring county’s in Will and DuPage to purchase not only soda and sweetened drinks but also other mainstream products to avoid paying Cook County’s oppressive sale taxes.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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