Judge lifts the lid from Cook County soft drink tax
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association was only a little shaken after a Cook County judge lifted a restraining order on the much-debated soda tax, allowing the penny-per-ounce tax to officially go into effect.
“We’re reviewing our legal options and its very unlikely things will end here,” Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Merchants Association, told Chicago City Wire. “We’ll be putting out a statement reflecting our intentions going forward very soon now.”
Judge Daniel Kubasiak shot down a suit filed on behalf of local consumers and businesses who opposed to the tax.
"The only question and duty before this court is to determine if the merchants have set forth sufficient substance in the verified complaint to withstand the county’s motion to dismiss," he ruled.
The tax was originally slated to go into effect on July 1, but Kubasiak issued a restraining order a few hours beforehand, leading county officials to issue layoff notices to hundreds of public employees.
“For consumers paying a lot more for sugar sweet beverages where taxes will sometimes cost more than the product itself is about to become a harsh reality,” Karr said. “Businesses looking to control cost as a means of trying to stay in business might be looking at layoffs as the only way of staying competitive.”
Karr is now also urging consumers to contact the eight Cook County Board commissioners who voted in favor of the tax along with board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has publicly estimated that the county has already lost at least $17 million in added revenue by the delay.
“If Philadelphia is any indication, this move could totally decimate the market,” Karr said.
Reports indicate that since the 1.5 cent-per-ounce soda tax went into effect in Philadelphia on Jan. 1, consumption of sweet drinks is down by as much as 50 percent.
“With all the outmigration among citizens and businesses, the fact that lawmakers here in Illinois are still pushing something like this sends the message that government still doesn’t get it,” Karr said.