Cook County board appears to have enough votes to repeal soda tax

A big breakthrough Thursday for those demanding a repeal of Cook County’s tax on sweetened beverages. They appear to have the votes needed to repeal it next week.

As chairman of the finance committee, John Patrick Daley is the second most powerful person on the Cook County board. His father and brother served as mayors of Chicago for nearly 44 years. Daley’s flip-flop on the soda tax he once supported puts it on a fast-track to repeal.

“I made a decision after hearing from the people of my community,” Daley said. “The residents, the business owners, the store owners…I think basically they're saying we've been taxed and taxed. And they're tired of it.”

Daley’s defection is a big blow to Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle. For now, at least, she's still defending the penny-an-ounce tax on sweetened beverages. During its first full month, tax collections were nearly on track to hit the $200 million a year Preckwinkle's counting on. Without it, she says there will be big cuts to services and jobs.

“The choice is simple. Do we want cook county to be safer, healthier and more efficient? Or do we want to go backwards?” Preckwinkle said.

A majority of the Cook County board now appears to disagree.

“At some point, we have to stop growing county government. And we have to start living within our means,” said commissioner Richard Boykin.

Even if a repeal resolution is approved next week, the soda tax is not necessarily dead. Preckwinkle could veto the repeal. If that happens, foes of the tax need at least two more flip-floppers, in addition to john Daley, to override a veto.

The Cook County board's finance committee is scheduled to vote next Tuesday on whether to repeal the sweetened beverage tax. It could go to the full board for final action on Wednesday.