Cook County officials prepare for vote to repeal beverage tax

CHICAGO -- Cook County commissioners are getting ready to vote on repealing the county's unpopular sweetened beverage tax and at least one commissioner believes it can be done without hurting Cook County operations.

Supporters of the tax, which took effect August 1, are pointing to the tens of millions of dollars in health care costs borne by taxpayers to treat the epidemic of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

A growing list of opponents said that the new tax is doing more harm than good.

A repeal measure could reverse the tax.

Food store operators have been deeply unhappy, complaining to commissioners. Thrifty shoppers an easily cross the border to purchase sugary beverages and it is hurting businesses in Cook County.

Commissioners are feeling the heat from powerful groups like the Illinois Merchant Association, as well as soda pop manufacturers.

Many attended a protest at the Thompson Center Tuesday.

Toni Preckwinkle pushed back against her opponents who organized a press conference at a South Side eye-care clinic where diabetics are being treated who are losing their eyesight as a result of their condition.

Half of the county’s $4 billion operating budget goes to support the hospital and dozens of clinics across the county.

Many have said that the beverage tax is doing more harm than good.

At the Thompson Center, Cook County commissioners lined up in opposition to the sweetened beverage tax.

A repeal measure could reverse the tax as early as Wednesday.

Merchants and food store operators are deeply unhappy with the tax, particularly on the edges of Cook County where thrifty shoppers can easily cross the border to shop in other stores.

If the anti-tax commissioners have nine votes, that would be enough to suspend the rules and the tax could be repealed, otherwise the measure will automatically go to the finance committee.