By: Mark Glennon*


Cook County on Thursday slapped another $224 million tax on its residents, this time in the form of a “sugary drinks” tax.  According to the Chicago Tribune, the tax will add 72 cents to the cost of a six-pack of soda or 68 cents for a 2-liter bottle. The tax also will be imposed on fountain drinks at a penny an ounce, bringing the tax on a 7-Eleven Gulp to 32 cents and on a Double Gulp to 50 cents.


Where’s it going? In a sense, money is fungible, but it’s pretty clear from the county’s new budget what necessitated the tax. For 2016, the county decided to make additional contributions to its underfunded pension, above and beyond the schedule set forth by state statute. It contributed an extra $270 million. For 2017, it will increase that supplemental contribution by $83 million, making the total supplemental pension fund contribution $353 million. There goes your tax money.


There’s a pretty glaring question whether the whole thing is legal, which was flagged by The Civic Federation in its report on the county budget. An Illinois statute (40 ILCS 5/9-16938) says county pension contributions must come from the property tax, not a sales tax. The statute also caps pension payments at no more than 1.54 times what the employees themselves contribute for the two years prior. The county’s proposed additional pension contribution exceeds that cap and the increase in pension contributions comes from a revenue source outside of the property tax, The Civic Federation says. In other words, Springfield set a limit on how much taxpayers have to contribute to the pensions relative to the pensioners themselves, and the county is ignoring that limit.


So what if it’s illegal, it’s a healthy thing, right? Well, the tax covers drinks with no sugar as well, such as iced tea, sports drinks and artificially sweetened soda.


And what a nightmare for small restaurants and shops to comply with this. The tax is in addition to the sales tax, so it has to be calculated separately, and food stamp users are exempt. Cook County sales taxes are already the highest in the nation.


This is a horribly regressive tax and in-your-face mean to small shops and restaurants. Let’s hope it’s challenged in court or that Springfield says no if the county asks for the statute to be changed.


*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.



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Tough Love
4 years ago

There is NOTHING as greedy as a PUBLIC Sector Union or worker, and the Unions? They are a CANCER inflicted upon civilized Society.

The pensions should be frozen for the future service of all CURRENT workers.

Taxpayers, give these insatiably greedy moochers a stiff middle finger …. but not an additional dime of funding.

4 years ago

what happens when 25% of cook county residents decide to buy groceries and gas outside of the county? my wife doesn’t follow any of this stuff but she told me she is planning to shop outside cook for groceries. So there goes $25-40 in taxes per month for the basic groceries. All because she would have to pay 50 cents extra on soda. So now the county has to make up the loss of $40 because of the need to grab an extra 50 cents. How many others are thinking the same thing?

4 years ago

How would this impact free refills? Are restaurants going to charge me an extra 16 cents every time the waitress refills my Dr Pepper? When I help myself to a refill at Costco, who’s gonna know?

4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

it sounds like a per ounce dispensed tax… so kiss free refills goodbye, eh?

4 years ago

First came white flight, then came tax flight.

bob oriole park
4 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Right on. One of the commissioners who voted against it said his wife already buys her cigarettes in DuPage because of much lower taxes. I’ll be buying my soda there as well when this kicks in. And if I’m buying soda, I may as well biy groceries. And if I’m out that way, why not fill up the car? And since I’m already there I’ll eat out at their restaurants and not worry about being nickeled and dimed if I ask for a soda refill.
Prickwanker positioned herself as a fiscal hawk, but she’s nothing more than Stroger 2.0.

Hela Smith
4 years ago

Prickwanker will be the next Mayor of the mess.

4 years ago
Reply to  Hela Smith

Anybody stupid enough to want to be mayor can deal with that pain. All the fun money is gone.

That the Daleys high-tailed should have been the first clue the fun money was gone.