Cook County board president relies on beverage tax for 2018 budget

CHICAGO -- Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveiled her 2018 budget proposal today.

The spending plan relies heavily on the controversial new beverage tax.

Cook County commissioner John Daley is a staunch supporter of President Preckwinkle.  He now says he will vote to repeal the controversial soda tax which could make the nine votes necessary to get rid of it.

That would be music to the ears to restaurant owners who are stuck in a tough position.

Home Run Inn Pizza is losing money on the soda tax. Because of it, a box of soda has risen more than $30.

“Before the tax, this cost us like $65 now it’s $98,” said Dan Costello of Home Run Inn Pizza.

Up to now, Costello hasn’t passed the tax onto his customers in seven of his Cook County restaurants.  This has cost him $4,000 a month.  But that will have to change eventually if the tax isn’t repealed next week. And free refills make it even more challenging to figure out the penny per ounce tax.  Costello has seen his customers leave the South Side and shop  in DuPage County where they go to his Darien restaurant.

At today’s contentious Cook County board meeting, at least 30 residents voiced their concerns over the sweet beverage tax.  Angry opponents have been very vocal that they’re fed up with taxes in Cook County and fed up with board members who keep raising them.

Even so, board president Toni Preckwinkle said in her budget address today that there’s no way around it.  She threatens an 11% cut to the budget if the tax is repealed which will lead to layoffs of doctors, nurses, prosecutors, public defenders, sheriff’s officers and jail guards.

“So in my view, the choice is simple.  Do we want Cook County to be healthier, safer and more efficient? Or do we want to go backwards?  I know where I stand,” she said.

The budget vote is next Tuesday.  When asked if she thinks the soda tax will be repealed, president Preckwinkle said "I don't know."