Cook County

Judge Extends Temporary Restraining Order Blocking Soda Tax

The new tax, which was set to take effect July 1, would raise $67.5 million in new revenue for the county by Nov. 30, according to county estimates

A temporary restraining order blocking Cook County's tax on sugary beverages has been extended until July 21, an extension filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court shows.

The new tax, originally set to take effect July 1, was slated to tack on an extra penny per ounce of any drink sweetened with sugar or a substitute sold in Cook County. It is expected to raise $67.5 million in new revenue by Nov. 30, according to county estimates. 

The tax was put on hold June 30, though, after Illinois merchants won a temporary restraining order that on Monday an appellate court refused to overturn.

The judge, citing questions about the tax's impact on consumers, set an original court date of July 12, but Tuesday's filing means the county must wait longer. That could mean layoffs, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

"Let me be clear," Preckwinkle said Tuesday. "The crisis is real and the cuts must be real."

Layoff notices could go out next week to at least 1,100 workers if Cook County's tax on sugary beverages isn't reinstated, she said.

Cuts likely would come from the county's health care and public safety systems, which account for 87 cents out of every dollar the county spends.

"If we don't have revenue, we end up laying off doctors and nurses, prosecutors, public defenders and jail guards," Preckwinkle said. "That's where our money goes."

Toni Preckwinkle sent a letter last week to county agency heads warning their budgets would need to be slashed by 10 percent before Aug. 1 if the soda tax, currently blocked by a temporary restraining order, is not reinstated.

With that money off the table for now, county agencies are preparing for spending cuts that would include massive lay-offs.

Preckwinkle told reporters Tuesday that layoffs are "inevitable" if the tax doesn't go through.

According to a memo sent out by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, as many as 925 employees of the department could be laid off as a result of spending cuts.

“The proposed layoffs amounted to approximately 17 percent of our work force,” Dart said.

Meanwhile, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is looking at drastic cuts as well. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told CBS that she expects that she would have to lay off at least 100 prosecutors and dozens of administrative staffers if the revenue from the soda tax isn’t replaced.

Up to 2,600 county employees could be laid off if the tax is not back in effect by December, according to reports. 

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