Cook County Confirms more than 300 Layoffs
Earlier fears have been confirmed. Hundreds of layoffs at Cook County, Illinois have finally been confirmed. The president of Cook County’s board has officially announced that more than 300 employees are being laid off by the county.
The most populous county in Illinois is facing a serious budget crisis. I reported last week that the county government was bracing for mass layoffs following a revenue crisis that has been worsened by the delay of a proposed soda tax. It was originally estimated that about 1,100 employees could get laid off.
For now, however, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has confirmed that around 300 employees are going to receive layoff notices. Various government agencies will be losing staff members in this round, including the Cook County’s Sheriff Office and the State’s Attorney’s Office.
The State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed in an official press release that 39 of its employees have received pink slips. “Today as the result of the $4 million deficit to our 2017 budget, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was forced to announce a reduction in our work force,” said its press release.
Preckwinkle says that the county was forced to cut jobs as it is struggling with a budget deficit that has gotten worse after a court prevented the county from implementing the soda tax.
Cook County officials were proposing a tax of $0.01 per ounce on sweetened beverages like sodas, energy drinks, and certain fruit juices. The taxes were expected to generate millions of dollars in revenue for the county and help it overcome its budget deficit.
However, a trade group—Illinois Retail Merchants Association—challenged the proposed tax in court and won. A restraining order by the court prohibits the county from enacting the tax.
As a consequence, the county is no longer in a position to raise enough revenue to cover its budget shortfall. The county government is running out of funds to bear its employee costs.
In a statement following the layoffs, Preckwinkle said, “The personnel actions are necessary to address an approximately $68 million gap in our FY2017 that is directly related to the Illinois Retail Merchants Association’s lawsuit and Temporary Restraining Order that prohibits us from collecting the Sweetened Beverage Tax.”
More layoffs may follow if the soda tax delays continue to deplete the county’s bank accounts, and no alternative sources of revenue are found.
“Cook County Announces Layoffs for 300 Employees Amid Budget Crisis,” NBC5 Chicago, July 14, 2017.
“Cook County to cut 1,100 jobs due to soda tax delay,” ABC7 Chicago, July 11, 2017.