* Not much else to do today, so here’s the Daily Herald…
Cook County Judge Daniel Kubasiak cleared the path Friday for Cook County’s penny-per-ounce soda tax to take effect.
Kubasiak initially sided with opponents of the tax because of hardships placed on consumers seeking refunds if the law was found to be unconstitutional. He granted a restraining order June 30 to prevent implementation of the tax.
He said Friday, however, that there’s nothing constitutionally that prevents implementation of the tax and the exercise of the county’s home rule powers. He said the tax “provides a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what is required” and is “sufficiently detailed and specific to preclude arbitrary enforcement.” […]
County officials had projected the tax would raise about $200 million over the next 12 months, and expected $67.5 million in the remainder of the fiscal year to help cover costs. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle ordered staff reductions and other budget cuts in the wake of the judge’s order, since the county was relying on revenue from the tax to cover those costs. The county laid off about 300 workers and the sheriff’s office laid off more than 110 recruits and trainees, according to officials.
Last week, county lawyers argued Illinois law permits differential taxation, which refers to the fact that the tax applies to some beverages and not others. The tax, they also argued, is needed to address concerns surrounding public health.
“Drinks that are widely available pose a greater risk to public health,” said county attorney Kent Ray. “We don’t believe there can be any rebuttal to the position that ready-made beverages and custom-made beverages are different from a public health perspective.”
Attorneys representing the merchants argued there was no substantial difference in how sweetened beverages are classified, making the tax unfairly vague for consumers and distributors.
“The [differences between the] sweetened beverages that are taxed and the sweetened beverages that are not taxed are not real substantial differences,” David Ruskin, an attorney for the retailers, said.
* From the the Illinois Public Health Institute and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity…
We are gratified that the judge rejected the unfounded arguments for a delay in implementing this optional tax that will benefit our county’s fiscal health and our communities’ physical well-being. The sooner people stop drinking sweetened beverages, the sooner we expect to see a decline in the chronic diseases caused by too much sugar.
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, on behalf of Cook County retailers, has issued the following statement regarding the Circuit Court of Cook County’s decision to grant the county’s motion to dismiss the retailers’ lawsuit against the sweetened beverage tax.
“We are disappointed with today’s ruling. We are exploring all legal options,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of IRMA.
…Adding More… Preckwinkle…
Statement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Judge Kubasiak’s Ruling Dismissing the Sweetened Beverage Tax Lawsuit
We applaud today’s decision by Judge Kubasiak granting our motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit challenging the sweetened beverage tax. We believed all along that our ordinance was carefully drafted and met pertinent constitutional tests. The delay in implementing the tax caused by the merchants’ lawsuit forced us to put into motion cost-saving measures to cope with this revenue loss, which currently is at least $17 million. Until we are able to fully implement and collect revenues from this tax, we will continue to review our financial position and make adjustments accordingly. The ordinance was approved last November and all retailers and distributors should have been prepared to collect the tax on July 1. The tax should be collected at the consumer level beginning on Aug 2. We are especially grateful to our legal team and the attorneys from the State’s Attorney’s office for the hard work that led to this decision.