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John Daley flips on soda pop tax, boosting repeal effort

Thursday, October 05, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Cook County Board Commissioner John Daley has decided to vote to repeal the controversial soda tax, boosting the chances for repeal next week.

“I am going to vote to repeal,” Daley told the Chicago Tribune. “I listened to the community, the residents I represent, and there’s been a strong outcry.

“It’s a lot of taxes they’ve been hit with,” added Daley, referring to city property taxes, garbage fees and the recent increase in the state income tax. “It’s every economic group. It’s every ethnic group. It’s every part of the district.”

Daley’s change of heart represents a blow to board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is trying to preserve the pop tax ahead of a Tuesday vote on a repeal measure. Not only is he the Finance Committee chairman, he’s been a loyal ally of Preckwinkle since she was first elected in late 2010 and voted for the penny-an-ounce tax on sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages last November.

Several commissioners said Daley’s flip on the issue could cause a domino effect among the other seven commissioners who originally supported the tax. But Daley said he won’t try to sway anyone and that commissioners have to make the best decisions they can in the interest of the people they represent.

“I think the president has done a terrific job of reforming county government,” Daley said, adding that he respects her push for the tax. “I’ve been overwhelmingly supportive of the president in the past.”

Commissioner Timothy Schneider, a Bartlett Republican who is chairman of the Illinois Republican Party and co-sponsor of the repeal ordinance, said he believes there’s now at least nine votes to repeal the ordinance — the minimum required on the 17-member board. Schneider, however, said he’s not sure if there will be 11 votes for repeal — the number it takes to override a Preckwinkle veto.

Daley explained his decision to the Tribune just hours after Preckwinkle presented her proposed 2018 budget, which relies on the $200 million a year in revenue it’s expected to produce.

She struck a defiant tone, calling next week’s repeal vote “a moment of truth.”

Repealing the tax would be “a step toward cutting essential services for our residents, a step toward layoffs, a step toward the kind of fiscal uncertainty that forces us to focus on plugging short-term budget gaps instead of dedicating ourselves to finding long-term solutions.”

Preckwinkle went on to note that some commissioners last year voted against the pop tax, but then voted for the county’s overall spending plan that relied on the revenue from the very tax they had voted against.

“There’s no longer space to rail against the tax but secretly hope your colleagues absorb the political heat for you because you know we need this revenue,” Preckwinkle said. “To support spending — and the vital services and benefits we provide — you must support revenue.”

Daley said that if the tax is repealed, commissioners and countywide elected officials will have to find a way to cut 11 percent in expenditures from their budgets. “There’s no source of new revenue from anyone, and no one’s willing to do it,” he said.

Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for Preckwinkle, declined to comment on Daley’s decision.

Daley represents a district that starts in his storied political family’s home base of Bridgeport and snakes southwest into Bedford Park and Burbank, then extends south to Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and the city’s Southwest Side.

Twitter @ReporterHal

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