Chicago's home county kills controversial soft drink tax

Chicago and its surrounding county have killed the region’s controversial soft drink tax, a measure many restaurateurs feared would become a model for similar measures in their markets.

The 15-2 repeal vote by the Cook County Board of Commissioners came just 10 weeks after the penny-an-ounce surcharge was levied on all sweetened soft drinks, including ones made with noncaloric sugar substitutes. The rollback ends a fierce lobbying battle that pitted restaurants and other soda-selling businesses against health advocates and parties that hoped to raise $200 million per year in revenues from the tax.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle warned yesterday that a vote to repeal the tax could result in government-employee layoffs and deep across-the-board spending cuts.

It is not clear if Preckwinkle, a proponent of the tax, will veto the rollback. Opponents need only 11 votes to override a veto.

She has already challenged fellow commissioners to find ways of closing the spending gap that will be left by the discontinuation of the tax when Cook County’s fiscal year ends Nov. 30.

At least one commissioner has suggested the jurisdiction make up the shortfall by legalizing marijuana for recreational use and levying a tax on the drug.

Connecticut is among the areas evaluating a soft drink tax as a way of raising state revenues.

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