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Soda tax is why Cook County needs change

When Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle pushed

through the tax on soda and other sweetened drinks–it’s misleading to make it

sound like it’s only on soda–she had a specific purpose.

She claims it was to raise money and contribute to a

healthier society. Sweetened soda pop and other drinks with artificial

sweeteners are unhealthy, she claims.

Yet, one of her first acts was to make sure that many of her

Chicago constituents, where her voter base is located, are excluded.

It’s the politics of poverty. Chicago has more low-income

residents than any other region of Cook County. There are low-income residents

in the suburbs, too, but the majority are in Chicago.

Chicago controls the Cook County Board. Preckwinkle comes

from Chicago, where she gets the bulk of her voter support. She has to keep

them happy.

Preckwinkle excluded recipients of SNAP (Supplemental

Nutritional Assistance Program) from having to pay the new Sweetened Drink Tax.

There are nearly 1.1 million people receiving SNAP benefits in Cook County. The

vast majority of them live in Chicago. They vote.

Preckwinkle doesn’t need suburban votes because the county

is crafted to dilute suburban voter strength. Several County districts based in

Chicago “steal” suburban areas for padding. In those districts, the

suburbanites there are hostage to Chicago.

But I have a bigger concern about the outrageous Sweetened

Beverage Tax. If drinking sweetened drinks is so “unhealthy,” why does she

think it’s OK to exclude poor recipients of SNAP?

Doesn’t their health matter?

This tax has nothing to do with health. It has everything to

do with money and votes.

Preckwinkle also pushed through another ordinance to raise

the minimum wage in Cook County. The bill basically incorporates the same

minimum wage rates imposed by Chicago.

Fortunately, more than 70 percent of the county’s 132

municipalities opted out. The State of Illinois has a minimum wage ordinance

that works. The hike would seriously harm suburban businesses.

Preckwinkle and the County Board are appealing to a hard core

base of lower-income voters, most of whom rely on retail jobs where the minimum

wage would be affected.

They want those suburban SNAP voters to strengthen their

control of the county.

Every time Chicago has a problem, Chicago and its minions on

the Cook County Board slam the suburbs. Why? Because the suburbs are disjointed

and divided into 132 municipalities that don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Chicago Public Schools have a problem, so Chicago pushes the

state to give its under-performing school system more money. Where do they get

the money? They are taking millions from money that ordinarily goes to the

suburbs, which have the image of being wealthy but are not.

That means people who live in these suburbs have to pay more

school taxes.

Did you ever wonder why the largest amount of money from

your tax bill, as much as 60 percent to 70 percent, goes to your local schools?

Because Chicago, with Cook County’s help, pushes the money to Chicago Public

Schools by continually changing the school funding formula to benefit Chicago.

They do the same thing with the CTA, a system of

transportation that can’t pay for itself.

Why do you think the state has a problem? Because the

suburbs have been exploiting pension wages? The answer is in Chicago, which is

why the only answer anyone has is to raise state income taxes on the people who

work.

Am I being unfair?

Well, as a suburban Cook County taxpayer who works hard and

pays a bundle in taxes, I think I have the right.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and

former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him [email protected])

Ray

Hanania’s column is just a fraction of the content that appears in this week’s

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