Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has proposed a regressive tax on beverages, like sports drinks, juices, teas and soda in Cook County that will destroy jobs and raise taxes on groceries for thousands of Cook County families.
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There are 2,200 Teamster employees in Cook County whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly dependent upon the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Additionally, there are nearly 40,000 small business owners and their hardworking employees who will face layoffs should the county board pass this beverage tax.
Not only will this tax result in layoffs, it also is not a long-term solution to Cook County’s fiscal problems. President Preckwinkle has made it clear that her proposal is designed to bring in enough revenue so that members of the board of commissioners won’t have to take any “tough votes” until after their re-election in 2018. But is that a promise she can keep?
Sales of sweetened beverages have been declining slowly for the last 15 years. This tax will only accelerate that. If, as proponents suggest, this tax results in the same 20 percent drop in consumption that occurred in less than a year after such a tax was enacted in Berkeley, California. Cook County cannot rely on this as revenue stream going forward.
Teamsters Joint Council 25 has repeatedly urged President Preckwinkle and the Board of Commissioners to consider alternative sources of revenue. Commissioner Richard Boykin’s ordinance that would add a surcharge to all rideshare transactions in Cook County is a good place to start. Even a more modest increase in the county sales tax would yield more revenue over the long-term – and it would continue to grow. A sales tax increase would be more evenly distributed across both products and income groups, unlike this beverage tax, which relies almost exclusively on purchases made by low or middle-income families.
As partners of the non-alcoholic industry, we value the industry’s significant economic impact in Illinois – providing more than 9,475 high-paying jobs, $819.5 million in wages and $1.5 billion in state and federal taxes every year. That’s a direct economic impact of $6.2 billion. More than 90,000 jobs in restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, movie theaters and more rely on the industry – all of which would be hurt by a proposed tax.
Cities across America are recognizing that public-private partnerships and education are a more effective way to improve public health, not just trying to tax the problem away. Providing families’ with information that allows them to make decisions in leading healthy and balanced lifestyles is the only way to truly address a public health issue. Let’s not burden Cook County residents with a tax that will destroy good-paying jobs, hurt small businesses or increase the costs of everyday grocery items for struggling families.
John T. Coli, president,Teamsters Joint Council 25
Michael Ciaccio, political director, Teamsters Joint Council 25
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