Cook County, home to Chicago and 40 percent of Illinois’s population, could be the next place to tax people’s sugary drinks. A levy on sodas proposed as part of the 2017 budget would add a penny to every ounce — or 72 cents to a six-pack, and 68 cents to a two-liter bottle. As currently written, it would apply to diet soft drinks, too, as well as energy drinks, fruit drinks that aren’t 100 percent juice, and fountain drinks, which means a bump on sodas at McDonald’s and Big Gulps at 7-Eleven.
In her proposal, Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle notes the health benefits of taxing soda, but (as political observers predicted would start happening after Philly passed its tax) she’s taking a page from Mayor Jim Kenney and pitching her plan as a way to close budgetary shortfalls. She says the $74 million it’s expected to raise will save “at least 1,000” jobs in the criminal-justice system — probably not a bad way to sell it to Chicagoans, come to think of it.
Regardless, labor groups are already blasting the plan as a “fat tax” that could itself imperil 90,000 service-industry and retail jobs, and business owners have formed a No Cook County Beverage Tax Coalition. Not shockingly, the American Beverage Association is also dipping into its Scrooge McDuck money bin to paper TV and radio with ads. Other county commissioners have proposed less regressive possibilities like tacking 50 cents onto Uber and Lyft rides, but Preckwinkle claims she’s already got enough backers for next month’s vote and is promising to make it the county’s only new tax for three years.