Circuit judge puts a cork in Cook County soda tax for now
A penny-per-ounce Cook County tax on sugary and artificial drinks has been put on hold by a circuit judge who issued a temporary restraining order requested by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and other grocers, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
The association’s lawsuit argues that the tax, which was set to go into effect on July 1, is vague and unconstitutional.
Barb Eastman, owner of Happy Foods Grocery stores in Chicago's Edgebrook and Edison Park communities, shared a similar opinion with Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson, hosts of "Chicago’s Morning Answer" radio show.
Proft is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
“We’re still getting notices, like how people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are tax-exempt,” Eastman said. “Well, how do you report that? I don’t know how they are going to do this. We are just getting notices all the time, and nobody has a straight answer yet.”
Eastman’s stores border the suburbs, and she worries that businesses on the border of Lake County will see a drop in sales if the tax is enacted.
“People are not going to buy the product now," she said. "They’ll either forgo it or go outside of this area to get it."
The tax applies to sweetened beverages, including juice, sports drinks and beverages bought at restaurants.
“One hundred percent fruit juice would be OK, but your Capri Suns or anything you serve to children that is somewhat healthy and good for them, it’ll be taxed,” Eastman said.
Eastman said some soft drink delivery drivers who work on commission in Cook County have quit because of the tax, which is also leaving a bad taste in the mouths of people living in her community.
“They feel that they’re adults, and they should decide what they want to drink,” Eastman said.
She also doesn’t believe lawmakers claims that the sugary drink tax is meant to help fight obesity.
“If they were fighting obesity, and they wanted you to drink water, they wouldn’t have the Chicago water tax,” Eastman said.
Eastman doesn’t think people in the community are ready to fight back against the tax but that things will turn around when it starts burning a hole in their wallets.
“When you’ve got a 99-cent bottle that’s 2 liters and you’re going to be paying $1.79 for it now, maybe that will wake them up,” Eastman said.
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