Government should never go after somebody in court just for having the audacity to challenge a tax.
But that’s what Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has done, going to court last week against the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, claiming the association has caused $17 million in damages by trying to block the county’s new soda tax.
The penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks is controversial, and Cook County retailers understandably worry it will hurt them if customers travel to neighboring counties to buy not just soda but also whatever else they need to pick up. When a business loses a customer, says Tanya Triche Dawood, the association’s general counsel, the customer doesn’t come back.
For the retailer association and co-plaintiffs to go to court to challenge the tax is entirely within their rights. It is even possible an appellate court might side with them in the end. Even Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kubasiak had a problem with the county’s suit, saying he couldn’t find another case of a “governmental body suing a taxpayer who had challenged a tax.”
Who will the county sue next? Homeowners who dare to challenge their property tax assessments?
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