The Washington Post reports that after only two months of being implemented, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 15-1 to repeal the Chicago’s massive soda tax—the country’s largest.
The Post chalks the repeal up to a variety of things–legal challenges, implementation glitches and the soda industry’s own advocacy on the issue. It isn’t until several paragraphs into the article that the Post mentions the main reason for the repeal: widespread voter outrage that the tax was passed in the first place.
[The tax] was met with staunch public opposition: Consumers have organized highly visible boycotts, driving to nearby Indiana for groceries, and flooded their representatives with complaints.
Several Cook County commissioners who switched their votes in favor of repeal have cited that outrage.
“I have heard from the people of my district, overwhelmingly,” said Commissioner John Daley during the Tuesday hearing, which stretched on for hours as proponents and opponents of the tax testified to the board’s finance committee.
Consumers understand what’s behind these measures. Politicians don’t pass soda taxes to help solve the obesity crisis or to dissuade people from buying sugary drinks (otherwise diet drinks, flavored water and juices wouldn’t be included in the tax). The reason they pass these nonsense measures is to create new streams of revenue.
The Post hints at this reality in the article, reporting that the “…county of 5.2 million people was already contending with budgetary woes” and that the measure “was pitched largely as a means to plug a $1.8 billion budget gap…”
What politicians might try to do instead is practice a little fiscal restraint, slash a few hundred county-wide duplicative and wasteful programs, consider the privatization of certain social programs and…here’s an idea, stop seeing government as the solution to every public need.
Of course, that would mean actually doing some work and making difficult decisions. I guess it’s far easier to simply levy another tax on an already overburdened tax base.