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Cook County sweetened beverages tax to take effect Aug 2

CHICAGO -- A judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages sold in the Chicago area, and dissolved a temporary restraining order that had delayed its implementation.

It's a win for Board President Toni Preckwinkle who said without the new revenue the county would need massive cuts.

In a statement Preckwinkle said in part:

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 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.

Commissioner Richard Boykin has been an vocal critic of the tax. He says Preckwinkle bullied the judge into issuing this ruling.

“Today is a bad day for the taxpayers of Cook County,” he said. “It is a victory, of course, for President Prekwinkle, who in a real sense, I think, bullied the judges into this decision. The judge went through great painstaking measures to suggest that he was aware of the budget crisis, the court layoffs and off of that.”

Earlier this month, while the tax was on hold, Preckwinkle sent out about 300 pink slips.

Cook County is counting on raising big money through the sweetened beverage tax. It projects $67.8 million this year and more than $200 million next fiscal year.

The county also says the pop tax is good for public health.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association argued the tax was vague and unconstitutional.

Now that the judge has stated he disagrees, Cook County merchants must scramble to get ready for the new tax.

The Merchant Association says it could takes vendors months to get ready to implement this new pop tax.