For Mark Habert, paying extra for his soft drinks was “the last straw.”
Holding a 7-Eleven fountain drink in downtown Chicago on Wednesday – the first day Cook County’s penny-an-ounce sweetened beverage tax took effect — Habert said he is ready to pack his bags and move to Atlanta with his wife and daughter.
“The legislators and people get together, and the only thing they can ever agree on is raising taxes,” Habert said, explaining how the new tax helped ruin his taste for Chicago, where he has lived for the last 25 years.
Habert said he was tired of a “dysfunctional city and state,” the soda tax being the most recent example of that.
He wasn’t the only one.
Barbara Buschman, who lives in Lemont and drinks a can or so of pop a day, was just as frustrated over the tax. But she said she’ll take less drastic measures than moving out of state and will simply make a short drive outside the county to buy her soda.
“I don’t think it’s good, especially for seniors on fixed incomes,” said Buschman, who mostly buys sugary drinks for her grandchildren.
Buschman, who was shopping at an Aldi in the Cook County portion of Lemont, said the tax was unfair and wondered out loud what Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was thinking.
Others were less angry and surmised that the tax may curb their thirst for unhealthy drinks.
“It is what it is,” said Ben Krimmel, who stood at the downtown Chicago 7-Eleven checkout, holding a Brisk Half and Half Ice Tea Lemonade. “Realistically, I should just stop drinking soda anyway.”
David Goldenberg, a spokesman for the Can the Tax Coalition, said there was outrage and shock from both businesses and consumers in the hours after the tax was implemented.
“Cook County commissioners brought a tax that they knew would bring significant harm to residents and businesses,” Goldenberg said. “We anticipate the outrage increasing as more and more people go to grocery stores and restaurants.”
Preckwinkle spokesman Frank Shuftan said that given the timeline of the ordinance passing to its implementation, merchants and consumers have had time to prepare. “Any suggestion that this is being rushed is nonsense,” he said.
While browsing Slurpee flavors at the Chicago 7-Eleven, Brian Foxx, 17, said the tax will make him more “observant” of his spending habits.
His family recently lost access to Illinois Link Cards so “it’s already hard to buy stuff,” he said. Taxes such as the sweetened beverage tax and the plastic bag tax just add to the costs, he said.
Meanwhile, Rosa Barton left an Arizona iced tea behind at a Walgreens in the Loop Wednesday because of the tax.
“What’s next?” she asked. “A tax on air?”
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit against the county last month over the tax and filed an appeal this week after a judge recently lifted a restraining order on it.