Delayed soda tax results in 300 Cook County layoffs

More are expected to come, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office predicts a possible 17 percent reduction in its workforce

By PoliceOne Staff

COOK COUNTY, Ill. — Three hundred Cook County employees were laid off Friday and more are expected after a proposed county soda tax was indefinitely stalled.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement that a lawsuit and temporary restraining order prohibits the county from collecting the sweetened beverage tax, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. She said the delayed implementation, which was supposed to go into effect July 1, could result in 1,100 layoffs in order to make up for the $68 million the county expected to take in from the tax. 

Each county department was asked to cut 10 percent from their spending and 600 vacancies were removed from the 2017 budget. The majority of the layoffs are set to come from the sheriff’s department. 

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart issued a memo obtained by the Cook County Chronicle stating that the department has been asked to lay off 925 workers, including 377 DOC employees, 212 sheriff’s police employees and 173 court service employees. This makes up approximately 17 percent of the sheriff’s office workforce.

Dart’s spokesperson Cara Smith told the Sun-Times that savings from the jail cuts would only be absorbed by the need for overtime pay.

“Any cuts in staffing at the jail are going to do two things: put officers at risk and likely invite the Department of Justice back in,” Smith said. “We have to be very careful.”

Commissioner Richard Boykin, who opposed the tax, said Preckwinkle created the crisis to pressure Judge Daniel Kubasiak while he rules on whether the tax is legal.

“This is nothing more than a bullying tactic to force the hand of the judiciary to say that the sweetened beverage tax is constitutional,” Boykin said.

Preckwinkle said she regrets that these actions have become necessary.

“I deeply regret the impact they have on individual employees,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “One of the main reasons I proposed the modest tax on sweetened beverages last year was specifically to avoid these kind[s] of cuts.”

A hearing is set for July 21 to discuss the lawsuit. 

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