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WHY I VOTED YES ON A "SWEETENED BEVERAGE TAX"

Thursday, November 10, 2016
Special to suffredin.org

 

Cook County government is the only functioning large government in Illinois. To keep that distinction takes careful planning. Cook County residents are looking to their government to streamline its services and continue to run the largest court system and public safety operation in Illinois. In addition, our health care services need new efficiencies to meet the growing needs of residents.

It has been a struggle to provide essential services in Illinois when the State owes Cook County millions of dollars and our largest city, Chicago, has many economic challenges.

Cook County has cut nearly 6,000 payroll positions and streamlined its government over the last 5 years. During this time, I have pushed hard for budget reform and have voted against the last 2 budgets because they did not adequately meet our citizens' needs. The budget we vote on next week contains new reforms including further reduction in payroll positions.

In 2015, I voted against a 1% sales tax increase. That tax increase was the first time in Cook County history where a tax was imposed outside of the budget process. This was significant because in the budget process there is a planning function that allows for the binding application of the taxes to specific purposes. This budget process helps insure that the tax is not excessive and that there is no creation of slush funds for future spending.

On November 10th, the County Board considered a "Sweetened Beverage Tax" which will stabilize our proposed budget, protect public safety, improve our health care services, and provides for our pension obligations. All the funds from this tax will be properly applied under the proposed budget and there is no slush fund created. I voted yes on this tax.

The "Sweetened Beverage Tax" was being proposed to meet real needs in our 2017 budget; it is a non-excessive tax on a very limited portion of our residents. It comes with a legally enforceable ordinance and resolution providing for NO NEW TAXES through 2020. The NO NEW TAXES language was found in proposals that I authored.

The health benefits of a new "Sweetened Beverage Tax" are twofold. First, we will attack the public health crisis caused by obesity and diabetes by changing residents' reliance on these beverages. Second, as the largest public health system in Illinois, we will generate funds to cover the high cost of treating patients with diabetes and heart illnesses caused by these beverages.

For the last 2 years, I have voted against the Cook County budget because there was no long-range planning and the budgets put off the need of adequate revenue. Today, the "Sweetened Beverage Tax" answers the revenue stabilization need and allows me to have confidence that the current budget will properly meet our residents' needs through 2020.



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