Soda tax temporary restraining order extended for one more week

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There’s still no soda tax in Cook County … for now.

Judge Daniel Kubasiak on Friday extended the restraining order on the controversial penny-per-ounce tax.

Kubasiak heard arguments from the county and from attorneys representing the Illinois Retail Merchants Association on the constitutionality and clarity of the ordinance and whether to dismiss the association’s lawsuit.

Kubasiak initially granted the restraining order on June 30; with the tax on hold, the county has laid off hundreds of public employees.

On Friday, county lawyers argued Illinois law permits differential taxation, which refers to the fact that the tax applies to some beverages and not others. The tax, they also argued, is needed to address concerns surrounding public health.

“Drinks that are widely available pose a greater risk to public health,” said county attorney Kent Ray. “We don’t believe there can be any rebuttal to the position that ready-made beverages and custom-made beverages are different from a public health perspective.”

Attorneys representing the merchants argued there was no substantial difference in how sweetened beverages are classified, making the tax unfairly vague for consumers and distributors.

“The [differences between the] sweetened beverages that are taxed and the sweetened beverages that are not taxed are not real substantial differences,” David Ruskin, an attorney for the retailers, said.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin contended the ordinance wasn’t based on health, and also and that continuing the restraining order was good for taxpayers.

“This is a manufactured crisis that President (Toni) Preckwinkle has created,” Boykin said. “This isn’t based on health, it’s based on revenue.”

Kubasiak will take up the matter again at his Daley Center courtroom on July 28.

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