Friday, December 1, 2017

EXTRA: Pop tax falls flat, while judicial temperaments soar sky high

Friday was the day that the Cook County tax on sweetened beverages (a.k.a., the pop tax) came to an end. With it being a new fiscal year for county government, a new budget takes over the finances.

Cost declines 21 cents
And this is the budget that made some $200 million in spending cuts to replace the revenues that were expected to be raised during Fiscal 2018 through pop sales.

A GREAT MANY people are trying to pass off the county’s action to rescind the tax as some heroic measure by which the Cook County Board listened to the electorate and took away that tax of 1 penny per ounce.

Which usually boosted the price of one of those plastic pop bottles by about 21 cents.

But there are those who are upset by the fact that the entities that comprise Cook County government got their spending cut. One of those is Chief Judge Timothy Evans (remember back when he was supposed to be Harold Washington’s successor, but wound up losing to Richard M. Daley?)

Evans is suing Cook County government, and in fact a hearing was held Friday on that lawsuit – although Friday’s hearing which will resume Tuesday was on the merits of bringing in a judge from outside of Cook County to preside over the case.

EVANS CONTENDS THE Cook County Board has no legal authority to cut employees from the courts payroll. He wants some 100 people restored to his payroll, and the county to find somewhere else to cut the $26 million it contemplated whacking from his portion of the county budget.

EVANS: Suing his own home county
Although county officials argue that the cuts they made to balance out the Cook County budget for Fiscal 2018 does not impact any front-line employees of the state’s attorney or public defender’s offices.

This is likely to be an ongoing argument. So for any of you who thought that the issue was resolved by reducing the cost of a bottle of pop back to previous tax levels, you appear seriously misguided.

And for what it’s worth, I’ve heard from some potential voters who say they admire county board President Toni Preckwinkle for at least trying to find a solution that didn’t involve cuts in government services.

I DON’T KNOW exactly how this will all be resolved in the end – other than to say there are bound to be a few individuals for whom essential services wind up being whacked at in the name of balanced budgeting.

Just something to think about when you get all excited about saving 21 cents on a pop bottle – or 64 cents on those two-liter jugs some people like to buy!


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