Bloomberg Fails Again With Soda Tax Repeal in Cook County

Billionaire spent $5 million promoting tax, only got two votes to save it

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg / Getty Images
October 11, 2017

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg's crusade against soda has met another failure, as Chicago voted to end its taxation Wednesday.

Cook County commissioners voted 15-2 to repeal the 1-cent per ounce tax on soda, diet soda, sweetened coffees and teas, and sports drinks. The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune called the tax "highway robbery." The tax added a $1.28 tax for a gallon of zero-calorie iced tea.

The vote is the latest in a series of losses for Bloomberg, who has poured millions into anti-soda campaigns.

The former New York City mayor spent at least $5 million on ads supporting the Cook County tax and vowed to spend "whatever it takes" to reelect commissioners who supported it.

Ultimately, only two commissioners voted against the repeal, which ends the tax officially on Dec. 1. The tax will be in effect for just four months.

"This decision shows that consumers and local communities across the country are standing up against onerous taxes with their voices and their votes," said the American Beverage Association, which joined local storeowners in a campaign against the tax. "The Cook County Board's decision makes it clear that momentum is not with politicians who try to use excessive taxes on the everyday beverages that people buy—and local businesses count on—to close budget gaps under the pretense of public health."

Bloomberg spent $1.5 million pushing for a 2-cent per ounce soda tax in Santa Fe, N.M., that also failed. Voters soundly rejected the proposal with record turnout in May.

Attempts to tax sweet drinks in other states have also failed. City council members in St. Helens, Ore., voted unanimously against a soda tax earlier this month.

Philadelphia, the first big city to adopt a soda tax, is facing numerous problems with its implementation. The 1.5-cent per ounce tax makes soda more expensive than beer, has cost jobs, failed to meet revenue projections, and faced court challenges.

Sixty-two percent of Philadelphia voters said they would like to see the soda tax repealed, according to a recent poll.