Cook County officials to vote on repealing sugary drink tax

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Less than two months after the country's largest soda tax went into effect, embattled lawmakers in Cook County, Ill. - the home of Chicago - are already poised to repeal it.

The measure likely to be endorsed by the county board's finance committee Tuesday would end the tax on December 1. It's also the second blow this year to the soda tax movement, which suffered a defeat in Santa Fe in early May. Retailers earlier this year unsuccessfully sued the county with a lawsuit that claimed the tax was unconstitutionally vague, hard to implement, and unlawful because similar beverages were taxed differently. The tax went into effect on August 2, and has faced public backlash fueled by a repeal campaign funded by the American Beverage Association. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg bankrolled ads promoting the tax as a deterrent to childhood obesity, while the soft drink industry through the Can the Tax Coalition ran ads against what it deemed an intrusion into consumers' lives. Almost 77 percent of those polled said they believed the tax was in order to raise money, with 11.71 percent saying it was meant to "improve health".

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In an October 5 budget address, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, the most stalwart defender of the soda tax, argued that county services - including hospitals, clinics, and community intervention programs - would suffer without the tax.

15 to 1 was the vote to repeal, a veto-proof majority. In the latest poll, about 79 percent said they would not support a commissioner for re-election should they support the tax.

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The finance committee's vote followed hours of testimony from Cook County officials, retailers, healthcare advocates and residents.

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