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Industry groups launch last-ditch plan to kill county beverage tax

Industry groups are opposing a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages that takes effect July 1 in Cook County. | AP File Photo

A coalition of businessmen and labor leaders gathered Thursday to launch a campaign seeking the repeal of a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages about to take effect in Cook County.

The tax, narrowly passed by the Cook County Board of Commissioners in November, kicks in July 1.

Hoping to head it off, the “Can the Tax” campaign was announced at Manny’s Deli Thursday, where foes of the tax said they hope to mount enough pressure on the county board to repeal the tax, which is intended to plug county budget shortfalls.

“The tax will drive consumers out of the county,” Brian Jordan, president of the Illinois Food Retailers Association, said as he stood behind tables that contained dozens of sweet beverages that will soon be taxed.

“They will travel to collar counties and to Indiana to buy their beverages. We see this with motor fuel, lottery, alcohol, tobacco. We will see it with everyday beverages,” he said.

“The Illinois retail industry employs one out of every five people in Illinois and is the driving force of the state’s economy. In Cook County, that number is closer to one in three,” Jordan added. “This is a tax that will effect thousands of retailers and will certainly impact every consumer in Cook County.”

Other leaders of the Can the Tax campaign include Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, and John Coli Jr., president of teamsters local 727. The campaign is being funded by the American Beverage Association, which has fought against similar taxes in other cities.