County Won’t Seek Millions In Soda-Tax Damages

(CBS) — Cook County government will no longer  seeks $17 million in damages from a retail organization that temporarily stymied the new sweetened-beverage tax.

A spokesperson for Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle says now that the latest attempt to block the penny-an-ounce tax have been unsuccessful, it’s best to move on.

Monday, the Illinois Appellate Court denied merchant requests to stop collecting the tax immediately.

“Now that the Appellate Court has rejected the emergency motion that would again prevent us from collecting the sweetened beverage tax, we believe we should move forward cooperatively and in good faith with the County’s retail industry. As a result, the County has determined that withdrawing its petition for damages would serve the public interest,” a statement from Preckwinkle’s office said Tuesday.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, or IRMA, challenged the new beverage tax as unfair and cumbersome to its members and got a judge to stall implementation of the tax for about a month. That cost the county around $20 million in uncollected revenue and spurred government officials to begin laying off public employees.

Some retailers have been wrongly charging the new tax on exempt beverages. A Schaumburg man filed suit against Walgreens for incorrectly charging the tax on La Croix sparkling water last week.

Walgreens now has alert signs posted beside taxed beverages — and even provides a price rundown for consumers.

Chicken Planet, a mom and pop restaurant, struggled with how to pass the tax along to customers, and reflect it in their pricing software. A 25-cent  bump in meal prices was easier than policing the drink station and limiting refills, owners tell CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.

IRMA officials said the county’s attempts to seek damages would have had a chilling effect on anyone that wants to challenge a bad policy.

“The filing of the motion for damages displayed a dangerous disdain for legal rights we all enjoy. We look forward to the Preckwinkle Administration beginning to exercise cooperation and good faith with the county’s retail industry,” said Rob Karr, the group’s president and CEO.

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