Chicago area's soft-drink tax repealed by county board

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Chicago area's soft-drink tax repealed by county board

The only two commissioners to vote against the tax were Evanston Democrat Larry Suffredin and Chicago Democrat Jerry Butler.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted, 15-2, to repeal a penny-per-ounce tax that went into effect on August 2.

Store owners, drink companies and bottlers all battled the tax. It applies not just to soda, but also to sports drinks, iced tea and lemonade, and comes on top of beverage taxes imposed by IL and Chicago.

The vote sets the stage for a final vote on Wednesday to repeal the tax, which aroused the ire of consumers and retailers who say their businesses have been adversely affected. The tax went into effect on August 2, and has faced public backlash fueled by a repeal campaign funded by the American Beverage Association.

"But it is also a stark reminder that public health benefits alone are not enough to enact and sustain a new sweetened beverage tax", the coalition said in a statement. "Beverage taxes are really a money grab that has nothing to do with public health".

Cook County, which includes Chicago, became the largest jurisdiction in the U.S.to enact the tax on sugary and artificially sweetened beverages when the board approved it in November with Board President Toni Preckwinkle as the deciding vote. For instance, he said, a sweet bottled drink would be taxed while a similar beverage from a barista would be exempt.

Grace said Cook County's repeal "should serve as a harsh wake-up call" to elected officials in Philadelphia.

Preckwinkle and commissioners will have to decide how they will fill an approximate $200 million budget hole that the tax would have satisfied.

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