TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, August 11, 2017

Editorial: Madam President, Abolish The Soda Tax

Chicago Tribune editorial, Madam President, Abolish the Soda Tax:

Cook County's soda tax turned one week old on Wednesday. Happy birthday!

Not exactly. County officials knew the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages was unpopular, but we suspect they underestimated the public wrath it would provoke once shoppers saw how much it added to the cost of their daily purchases.

A We Ask America Polls survey commissioned by the Illinois Manufacturers' Association and conducted Aug. 3 through Aug. 6 found that 87 percent of respondents disapproved of the tax. Yes, 87 percent. Though the tax was sold as a public health initiative, 80 percent believe it's a money grab. And 83 percent said they would be less likely to re-elect a member of the Cook County Board who voted for it. (That chance comes in 2018.)

Whew. No positive spin in those numbers. The soda tax is about as popular as a hornet in a hospital nursery. ...

Madam President, listen to your constituents. They don't want the soda tax. They're speaking to you. Pay attention. Gather up your finance wizards and find a way to roll back the tax and reduce county spending instead. Cut personnel. Consolidate departments. Limit services to the essentials. Stand firm against unaffordable pay and benefit packages of your unionized workforce.

Your support for the tax helps them get their raises. But it's costing you. This rebellion against the soda tax can be a teachable moment. Grasp it.

Voters adamantly reject the notion that the tax is a well-intentioned effort at improving public health. First clue: It applies to all sorts of beverages that don't include sugar. Second clue: Countless other sugar-laden products aren't taxed. A penny an ounce can inflate the price of some purchases by 50 percent or more.

And it adds up quickly, especially when combined with Chicago's highest-in-the-nation sales tax (ahem), hotel taxes, ammunition taxes, amusement taxes, parking taxes, cable taxes and of course, property taxes....

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Comments

Consumers want to buy the thing that's making them fat.... I hope Cook County sticks to its guns and keeps the tax in place.

Posted by: HTA | Aug 11, 2017 7:08:03 AM

We've all heard the expression "...fat and happy!" The right to be fat may be the next "civil right!"

Posted by: Joseph W. Mooney | Aug 12, 2017 2:56:45 PM

Well, HTA, Cook County certainly has ample guns to stick to.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Aug 13, 2017 4:47:42 AM