Chicago's soda tax repealed, in blow to 'nanny-state crusade'

The Cook County Board voted Wednesday to repeal the Chicago-area county’s controversial soda tax, after a public backlash to the penny-per-ounce charge.

Low-tax advocates cheered the decision as a blow to the “nanny-state crusade.” Cook County, which includes Chicago, was the largest jurisdiction in the country with a soda tax.

"If there is one city America's tax and spenders should be able muscle through the latest tax fad, it would be Chicago. And yet in this tax and spend, Democrat-run city, consumers forced the city council to cough up their recent tax hike and repeal the soda tax," Grover Norquist, president of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform, said in a statement. 

Wednesday’s vote would nix the soda tax -- which only recently went into effect -- by December.

Proponents of the tax claimed it would improve public health by discouraging the purchase of sugary drinks, which have been connected to health issues like obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

But critics argued it hurt retailers and hit low-income residents particularly hard.

“Nothing good has come from Cook County’s beverage tax. Residents and consumers have been forced to pay more on over 1,000 everyday beverages, including diet drinks,” the anti-tax Can the Tax Coalition said in a statement on its website. 

After delays related to a lawsuit from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the tax on sugary beverages went into effect this past August.

David Goldenberg, a spokesman for the anti-tax coalition, told Fox News that one problem with the tax was that similar beverages would be treated differently depending on how they were packaged. For instance, he said, a sweet bottled drink would be taxed while a similar beverage from a barista would be exempt.

“It had nothing to do with health -- everything to do with revenue” Goldenberg said.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the American Beverage Association and store owners spent millions pushing for repeal, while soda tax crusader Michael Bloomberg backed an even more expensive ad campaign to preserve the tax.

Revenue was a factor. In her 2018 budget address last week, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a supporter of the soda tax, reportedly argued that an estimated $200 million a year from the tax would help avoid budget cuts.