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County Board Kicks The Can On Sweetened Beverage Tax Repeal

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cook County Board of Commissioners stopped short Wednesday of repealing the six-week-old "pop tax," which added a penny per ounce to the cost of sweetened drinks and created an uproar.

Instead, commissioners agreed to send a measure repealing the tax that went into effect Aug. 2 to a committee for consideration, setting up a showdown over the measure on Oct. 10.

The battle over Cook County's controversial sweetened beverage tax took center stage at Wednesday's county board meeting, as opponents launched an effort to repeal the tax.

More than 90 people – both for and against the tax – signed up to speak at Wednesday's board meeting, where Commissioner Richard Boykin introduced his plan to repeal the tax.

Boykin wants to reduce spending in order to balance the county's budget without the $17 million in monthly revenue expected from the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages.

Under the board's normal rules of procedure, the Boykin plan went to commitee after the board decided against suspending the rules to put the plan to an immediate vote.

The board was split 8-8 over the tax last year, and Board President Toni Preckwinkle cast the deciding vote to pass it. It's unclear if Boykin has the votes to approve his repeal plan.

Preckwinkle spoke at the City Club of Chicago's breakfast earlier Wednesday, and her speech focused on the importance of this tax to fill a $174 million dollar budget deficit, and to promote better health.

"To any commissioner considering this action, I remind you that a vote to repeal is a vote to fire front-line health care providers; doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who help serve our most vulnerable," she said.

Recent polls have showed 87 percent of Cook County residents disapprove of the tax.

Preckwinkle admitted she didn't expect that kind of pushback from the public, but said if opponents are serious about repealing the tax, she noted the tax is expected to generate more than $200 million in revenue for next year's budget.

"Those who support repeal will have to identify those programs and services that they intend to cut to make up the $200 million in revenue loss," she said.

Commissioner John Fritchey, who voted against the tax, said in a Facebook post he did not expect a resolution to the repeal effort on Wednesday.



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