CHICAGO (CBS) — A fierce court battle between two political powerhouses is looming in Cook County. It’s a result of the sweetened beverage tax that fizzled Friday.
Chief Judge Timothy Evans is suing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The hearing took place Friday afternoon at the Daley Center. CBS 2’s Susanna Song has the story.
Evans wants an injunction to stop court layoffs. As of now 156 of his employees are slated to lose their jobs. Judge Evans argues Preckwinkle does not have the authority to cut those jobs and wants sufficient financial support to ensure the proper operation of the court system.
Preckwinkle long insisted the beverage tax was needed to keep services and jobs intact. She now defends the budget passed by the board last week, saying delays to the reductions will only result in deeper cuts later.
On Friday, customers should start checking their receipts. The penny an ounce charge on sweetened beverages is now a thing of the past in Cook County.
Customers at a 7-11 on Wacker and Wabash definitely noticed. Some say they avoided buying pop in Cook County until Friday. Others say tax or no tax, the habit is hard to break.
“With tax $1.37. Today? Back to $1.09,” said customer Brian Tobin, who admits it didn’t affect his soda habit. “I could get more Coke, more drinks so it’s good.”
“Considering I was paying a little bit more for non-sweetened beverages I did stop buying them for a little while. I’m not going to lie. This is the first one I’ve had in six months,” said customer Bethany Futrell. “The revenue can come from somewhere else.”
For the last four months, it was suppose to bring $200 million a year.
As for the lawsuit, to avoid conflicts of interest, a Lake County judge was brought in for Friday’s preliminary hearing.
Lake County Judge Mitchell Hoffman urged attorneys for Chief Judge Timothy Evans and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to try to negotiate their dispute over the more than 150 possible layoffs of middle managers.
Because of the separation of powers, a lawsuit should be the last resort, Judge Hoffman said.
Chief Judge Evans said the County has no authority to tell him who to lay off and needs people and resources for the court system to run properly.
County attorneys say they must hire outside council to handle the case and both sides agree that the affected employees will keep getting pay and benefits through at least next Friday, Dec. 8.
Another hearing is slated for next week.