Opponents of sweetened beverage tax find Democratic support

Consumers have begun to vote against Cook County's sweetened beverage tax by shopping for drinks elsewhere - and Speaker of the Illinois State House of Representatives Michael Madigan may be in support of a repeal.

"Now it seems as though when Speaker Madigan sees that his own representatives might be in jeopardy, he decides to get on board and support the repeal of the tax," said Commissioner Tim Schneider, who also heads the Illinois Republican Party.

Schneider said he is not surprised that some suburban Democrats might be concerned about a backlash over the tax.

"I think everybody knows that this tax is tremendously toxic to everyone who touches it," Schneider said.

Two bills have been filed in Springfield to repeal the tax, one of which was filed by State Representative Michelle Mussman (D), of Schaumburg.

"Ultimately, it is the Cook County Board who made this decision, and the Cook County Board is answerable to those residents," Mussman said. "I am answerable to my residents, therefore it is incumbent upon me to look at what I can do to have an influence over a situation that I think is not good for them."

Several commissioners who initially voted for the tax are now reportedly on the fence and could vote to repeal it.

"It seems like County President Preckwinkle, and handful of county board members, and New York City billionaire Michael Bloomberg are the only ones who still support it," a representative for the Can the Tax Coalition said Friday. "We are focused on repeal and will take all the help and support we can get."

Schneider said he believes there will not only be enough votes to repeal the tax, but enough to override Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's expected veto.

"I think they're really worried about what's going on in their neighborhoods, and frankly, they're worried about their reelection, because this is just going to devastate them," Schneider said.

Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael Madigan's office declined to comment on their political strategies.
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