Cook County Lays Off More Than 300 Employees

(CBS) – Cook County government announced more 300 layoffs Friday – the first damage done, officials say, while a controversial soda tax is in legal limbo.

Details about the positions cut were not immediately available. Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle says her office wanted to begin the unpleasant task of cutting staff now to offset an estimated $70 million budget hole.

“I regret that these actions are necessary – and I deeply regret the impact they have on individual employees. One of the main reasons I proposed the modest tax on sweetened beverages last year was specifically to avoid these kind of cuts,” Preckwinkle said in a prepared statement.

The penny-an-ounce tax on sweetened beverage, which was to begin July 1, is on hold as retailers challenge the measure in Cook County court.

County offices, including the sheriff’s office, had been bracing for job cuts that authorities say could put jail operations and public safety at risk. The county’s health care system, which serves low-income people, also will be affected.

The announced job cuts did not sit well with Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin.

“I don’t think we did nearly enough to look into the budget and figure out ways to cut waste, to cut out fraud and abuse,” he tells CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov.

But Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation said the layoffs were a “reasonable response” to the steep revenue shortfall.

 

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