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The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has appealed last week’s court decision upholding Cook County’s penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, enforcement of which began at retailers and foodservice establishments Aug. 2.
A county judge July 28 dismissed the lawsuit brought by IRMA and several Chicago-area grocers, and lifted a temporary restraining order issued a month earlier, allowing the tax, which had been slated to begin July 1, to take effect.
IRMA’s lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the tax, which applies to beverages containing sugar as well as artificial sweeteners. Retailers are urging the court to block implementation of the tax -- which was passed after a tie-breaking vote by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle -- due to the lack of clarity in how to properly apply and administer it.
“We have filed a notice to appeal the decision on the sweetened-beverage tax to protect retailers and consumers against this tax, whose rules and regulations have continuously evolved throughout this process,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of IRMA, which has offices in the state capital, Springfield, as well as in Chicago. “While the retailers pursue their legal rights, if you are a consumer upset with paying higher taxes, call your county commissioner and tell them to repeal this decision.”
Supporters of the tax assert that it benefits public health by discouraging consumers from purchasing sweetened beverages. Opponents and local media editorials have argued, however, that the tax is merely a cash grab by a irresponsibly spending county board, and will push business to stores into the collar counties.