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Why the soda pop tax is essential: Preckwinkle

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Crain's Chicago Business
by Opinion: President Preckwinkle

On Aug. 11, Crain's shared its "two cents" about the sweetened beverage tax and questioned not only the necessity of raising more revenue for essential Cook County services, but also my intent. Your conclusion that "it's possible Preckwinkle simply doesn't care" about the people of Cook County is offensive and untrue.

I care about the people of Cook County, which is why I asked commissioners to consider the tough choice of raising taxes to continue the progress we have made on many important fronts.

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I take seriously the obligation of ensuring quality health care to Cook County residents, especially those who are highest risk and most at need, through Cook County Health and Hospitals System. Health care is one of our legacy missions, and one in which I am deeply invested.

I take seriously the need to protect the people of Cook County through a fair and equitable criminal justice system. We have worked hard to make significant changes in bond court, reduce the jail population and have succeeded in making changes in juvenile justice laws.

These core functions are what the county's revenue pays for.

Meanwhile, Big Soda has spent millions of dollars to galvanize opposition to the 1-cent-per-ounce beverage tax. We know what their millions are going toward—fighting against the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and the other leading health care advocacy groups.

Our financial challenges are real and the choice is a simple one—revenue we expect from the sweetened beverage tax or draconian layoffs that affect indispensable county services, mostly in the public safety and public health arenas, which together comprise 87 percent of our budget.

Finally, the notion that I have not reined in county costs in my tenure is untrue. Since I took over as president in 2010, we have balanced our budget every year. We have closed $1.8 billion in gaps and cut $657 million in expenditures. We have downsized the county's workforce by 10 percent and cut our bonded indebtedness by 11 percent. We are confronting our pension fund shortfall. I challenge you to find another government in our state that has taken these issues head on. We have.

My pledge to Cook County residents is a government that runs efficiently, and effectively; one that is dedicated to improving services in a transparent and accountable way; and above all else, one that is fiscally responsible. I remain committed to this vision.

Toni Preckwinkle is president of the Cook County Board.

 



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