Delay in Soda Tax Forcing Cook County to Cut Jobs
Hundreds of public-sector employees are expected to receive layoff notices in Cook County, Illinois, thanks to the delayed implementation of its proposed soda tax.
Cook County, which is the second-most populous county in America, has proposed imposing a tax on sweetened beverages in order to generate revenue.
The beverage tax was going to add a $0.01-per-ounce levy to sweetened drinks including sodas, iced tea, energy drinks, and some fruit juices. Cook County was expecting to generate $200.0 million in revenue every year from the tax, which was supposed to come into effect on July 1.
However, a trade group has filed a lawsuit against the tax and a court has upheld a restraining order that bars the tax.
County officials say they do not have enough funds to pay the salaries of their employees and consequently they must cut jobs.
The president of the Cook County Board, Toni Preckwinkle, has confirmed that the county will soon be sending out layoff notices. It is being reported that about 1,100 employees will receive layoff notices.
“Let me be clear, the crisis is real, so the cuts must be real,” said Preckwinkle.
It is reported that about 87% of Cook County’s budget goes to the public health and public safety sectors. Hence, the lack of funds will significantly affect the county’s hospitals, police department, and courts.
Preckwinkle warns, “If we don’t have revenue, we end up laying off doctors, nurses, prosecutors and public defenders, and jail guards.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says that he has been asked to eliminate 1,000 positions from a workforce of 6,000 employees. He warns that the department will not be able to function properly with so many employees gone.
The trade group that has challenged the tax is ready to make a compromise. However, county officials are not willing to accept anything less than their original tax proposal.
“We’re gonna just fight this out in the courts for as long as it takes, and we think we have a strong case,” said Preckwinkle.
The next court hearing on the tax is scheduled for later this month. It is believed that the matter will be dragged out in court for weeks or months.
In the meantime, Cook County is running out of both time and funds.
“Cook County to cut 1,100 jobs due to soda tax delay,” ABC7 Chicago, July 11, 2017.