Cook County Once Again Short on $200 Million
Illinois’ Cook County is once again facing a budget shortfall following the repeal of the controversial soda tax proposal. America’s second most populous county has been facing a cash crunch as it runs short on revenue.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had proposed imposing a soda tax to help balance the budget. The County Board, however, voted against the proposal on Wednesday to repeal the impending soda tax.
The soda tax proposal—which included imposing a $0.01-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages including soft drinks and fruit juices—met with heavy opposition from pop manufacturers and sellers. The businesses lobbied against the tax, which could have helped Cook County raise about $200.0 million in tax revenue.
County officials have been arguing over the soda tax for months now. Preckwinkle, who has been the strongest proponent of the tax, had warned back in July that the county will be forced to cut its costs primarily through hundreds of public sector layoffs, if the pop tax is repealed.
However, the majority of the opponents in the Board repealed the tax proposal this week, saying Preckwinkle had to look for ways to cut spending to balance the budget instead of levying more taxes.
Preckwinkle, however, argues that she has no more room to cut spending without hurting the county’s public health and public safety sectors.
According to estimates, about 87% of the county’s budget is spent on healthcare and criminal justice systems. So cutting spending would mean taking away money from public agencies, such as hospitals and courts, which are critically needed by the people.
Following the repeal, Board President Preckwinkle said, “I presented a balanced budget, and those who decided that sweetened beverage tax repeal was appropriate understood that meant we would be $200 million short in revenue.”
Cook County officials have until the end of this month to figure out a way to balance the budget. They will either have to look for avenues to cut spending, find a way to raise taxes, or both.
In any case, the soda tax repeal has put the onus on their shoulders. Preckwinkle may take the backseat now and let the opposing commissioners take the pressure of finding a solution to the county’s budget problems.
The deadline to approve a budget is set for the end of November.
“With pop tax repealed, Preckwinkle says up to commissioners to fix budget,” Chicago Tribune, October 12, 2017.