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Illinois GOP lawmakers seek to repeal Cook County beverage tax

CHICAGO — Calling Cook County’s new sweetened beverage tax an “unfair burden” on residents and businesses, four House Republicans have introduced a bill to repeal it.

They point to some small businesses that have already reported a sales drop of 80 percent because people have either stopped buying the drinks or are going out of Cook County to get them.

“This tax was sold under the auspicious of it helping health in the area, it’s simply a cash grab,” said St. Rep. Grant Wehrli, (R) Naperville

The penny per ounce “Pop Tax” -- as it’s called -- appeals to all sweetened drinks, even those with a sugar substitute.

House Bill 4082, which was introduced today, would prevent any home rule county from imposing a tax on sweetened beverages based on volume sold.

“Because of our taxes, a can of Budweiser is going to cost less than a can of coke. What kind of message are you sending to your children and to your community, go out and get the Bud and forget the coke cola?” said St. Rep. Peter Breen, (R) Lombard.

Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle, in proposing the tax last year, said it would bring in much needed revenue but also expand community-based well-being programs.

In a statement today, her spokesman said “Republicans in Springfield went 736 days without a budget, imperiling the state’s fiscal stability and essential government services because they were unwilling to make the tough choices necessary to govern.

Their press event today is just that, a ploy for media attention, and Cook County will continue to do the hard work required to protect healthcare and public safety measures for all our residents.”

“We want a fair level of taxation in an equitable manner, and these sugary drink taxes are not that, they are bad policy all together…it’s appropriate for the legislature to step in and say “whoa” back the truck up guys,” said St. Rep. Peter Breen, (R) Lombard.

The pop tax went into effect August 2nd, after a lawsuit by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association was thrown out. It has since filed an appeal.

And in the weeks since it’s gone into effect, there have been protests, lawsuits filed against Walgreens, McDonald’s and 7-11 for the improper way the tax has been applied.

As well as concerns raised by the Department of Agriculture, which says the state is at risk of losing $87 million in food stamp funds for the way the tax is being applied.

And the Liquor Control Commission has expressed concern that implementation of the tax may be in violation of the Illinois Liquor Control Act.

To that, Preckwinkle’s office said it doesn’t agree with some of the issues raised and would arrange a meeting to hear concerns.

The House Republicans say they hope to read the bill into the record tomorrow, since they will already be in Springfield for the special session. They are hoping Democrats will also support it so they can move forward quickly on the bill.