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As Layoffs Loom, 'Pop Tax' To Remain Blocked Until July 21, Judge Rules

By Heather Cherone | July 11, 2017 4:20pm | Updated on July 14, 2017 11:26am
 Several studies have linked the consumption of sugary beverages to tooth decay and obesity.
Several studies have linked the consumption of sugary beverages to tooth decay and obesity.
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CHICAGO — Cook County's "pop tax" — which had been set to add a penny per ounce to the cost of sweetened drinks — will remain blocked until at least July 21, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Daniel Kubasiak, who blocked the tax from going into effect July 1, will hold a hearing on what he called the "significant constitutional issues" raised by the tax before deciding whether to permanently block the tax from being implemented.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said approximately 1,100 county employees will get layoff notices next week as county officials scramble to make up for the $68 million the tax was expected to bring in through the end of 2017 and the $200 million it was expected to bring in during 2018.

Preckwinkle said in a July 6 letter to county commissioners that the judge's decision had caused "immense strain" on the county's finances. Before the tax was blocked, Preckwinkle had proposed closing a $98 million gap in the county's 2018 budget with spending cuts.

An appellate court rejected on Monday the county's request to allow the tax to be implemented.

State's Attorney Kim Foxx said her office would have to cut $4 million from its budget because of the block on the tax. Layoffs will take place, Foxx said.

Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president of the merchants association that brought the lawsuit with several store owners, told reporters that it was "absolutely necessary" that the "unconstitutional" tax be blocked because it treats sweetened drinks sold in a bottle differently than sweetened drinks prepared to order.

Dubbed the "pop tax," the fee — approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners by one vote last November — also applies to hundreds of beverages beyond soft drinks.

The beverage industry lobby, which opposes the tax, has circulated a sample list of affected drinks, which runs 11 pages. The list includes juice drinks, sports drinks like Gatorade, flavored water with zero calories or sweeteners, iced tea, pop and lemonade.