Cook County's much-maligned tax on sweetened beverages proved so unpopular and politically toxic that it will be repealed Dec. 1.
The rollout of the tax of 1 cent per ounce on all sweetened beverages, including artificially sweetened diet pops with no calories, was so problematic that the tax got levied outside of Cook County — in another state in fact.
Lansing residents Denise Doorneweerd and Marina Gallegos went shopping Sunday at the Hammond Walmart just off the Borman Expressway, about three miles east of the state line and the Cook County border. They often shop in the Hoosier state because the taxes are lower and so many stores have closed in their hometown.
They bought some Hawaiian Punch that was on sale and were headed back to the car when Gallegos noticed the receipt included $1.28 for "Cook Cty SBT."
"She said, 'Holy crap, I think that's the Cook County sugar tax,'" Doorneweerd said. "It was just really weird looking at that thing. Something was wrong there. So we took it to the service counter and asked them to look at this. 'You guys are charging the Cook County sugar tax.' The manager didn't know what to do, but gave us our money back."
Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said customers were accidentally charged the Cook County sweetened beverage tax at the Walmart Supercenter at 7850 Cabela Drive on Sunday.
"It did occur at one store in Hammond Sunday," Crowson said. "It lasted for less than four hours, affecting select products, and was corrected as quickly as we found out."
Customers who were erroneously charged the pop tax can come in for a refund if they have their receipt.
"We're looking into what happened," Crowson said.
The Cook County tax was imposed in August to raise an estimated $200 million a year to sustain government services such as health clinics and jail staffing in Illinois' most populous county. It was also intended to promote public health by discouraging people from consuming empty calories that have been linked to obesity and other health problems.
Doorneweerd doesn't care for the tax, and said it's part of the reason why she often shops in Indiana.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," she said. "I just hope that anyone else who was charged gets a refund. It's unbelievable that we had to pay a Cook County tax in Indiana."