Judge Stops Tomorrow’s Imposed Soda Tax for Cook County Business, Residents

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A Cook County judge blocked the implementation of a Cook County controversial penny-per-ounce of sugar Soda Tax tax Friday afternoon, June 30, 2017, that was scheduled to begin Saturday, July 1, 2017.

Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak on Friday, June 30, 2017 granted a temporary restraining order requested by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and several grocers in a lawsuit against the Cook County Department of Revenue that argued the tax is unconstitutional and vague. Another hearing on the Soda Tax is scheduled for July 12, 2017.

Cook County officials had projected the $0.01/oz sugar tax would raise about $200 million toward the budget over the course of the next 12 months. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle promoted the new tax, praising its health benefits regarding obesity and diabetes among Cook County residents. But the tax was believed to have been approved by the Cook County board late 2016 to meet expenses for a distressed budget. Cook County officials said the influx of cash would have allowed the county to freeze sales and property taxes until 2020.

Zero-calorie sweet drinks would have been subjected to the new tax, even though there is no sugar in the drinks.

The tax would cover any “nonalcoholic beverage, carbonated or non-carbonated (including energy drinks or protein fitness drinks) which are intended for human consumption. Any drink that contained a caloric sweetener or noncaloric sweetener, and is available for sale in a bottle or produced for sale through the use of syrup and/or sweet powder would be affected by the new Cook County tax.

Cook County residents who receive federal financial assistance (SNAP benefits) would not have been subjected to the new tax.

Drinks not affected anyway by the proposed new tax would have been non-bottled coffees and teas; milk and milk-based products (Frappuccino); 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices; drinks sold for nutritional or medical purposes; and baby formula.

The tax would have added 67 cents to a 2-liter (67 oz) bottle of pop. A $1.00 deal for 2-Liter pop at Mariano’s would have risen to $1.67.

Restaurants and retailers planned to charge customers for fountain drinks. Cook County would tax restaurants on the syrup they use to make fountain drinks, that would be $38 for every five-gallon container. Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association claims that restaurants are considering ending free refills or raising prices to adjust.

While Cook County’s law would require the cost of the tax to be passed on to consumers, distributors of the sweetened drinks would have been responsible for paying Cook County.

Medical costs related to solely obesity in the United States were estimated to be $147 billion a year in 2009. Also in 2009, the American Heart Association reported that soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages are the largest contributors of added sugars in Americans’ diets. Excessive intake of food and drink products with added sugars, compared to naturally occurring sugars, is implicated in the rise in obesity in the United States.

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