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Vote to repeal Cook County soda tax delayed a month, as ad campaigns continue

The Cook County Board on Wednesday delayed a vote on repealing the controversial soda pop tax, ensuring at least 27 more days of mailers, radio ads and TV commercials that aim to sway public opinion on the issue.

Sending the proposal to the county’s Finance Committee for an Oct. 10 hearing allows time for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle‘s administration to conduct a financial analysis. Without one, a vote to repeal the penny-an-ounce tax on sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages could have faced a legal challenge.

“Ultimately, nobody wanted an up-or-down vote today more than myself, with the exception of nearly 90 percent of the constituents who oppose this regressive tax,” said Commissioner Sean Morrison, a Palos Park Republican and lead sponsor on the repeal ordinance. But “there is no political will here today to take up a repeal vote,” he added.

Wednesday’s anticlimactic committee referral came after more than two hours of testimony from members of the public that flooded the meeting. Scores of people who wanted to attend were turned away and left to listen to a loudspeaker broadcast in a hallway on the fifth floor of the County Building.

Beverage industry workers, retailers and suburban mayors were among the nearly 100 people who signed up to voice their opinions. Worth Village President Mary Werner said residents of her small town were driving 10 miles or more to buy their pop in Will County or Indiana.

“It would be bad enough if they were only buying their beverages, but they are so mad and they are so angry and they are so fed up with the taxes in Cook County, they are doing all their shopping, and while they’re there, they’re buying their gas as well,” Werner said.

County government union representatives, doctors and health care advocates, meanwhile, called on commissioners to keep the tax. Among them was Dr. Clare Crosh, a third-year pediatric resident at Advocate Hope Children’s…

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