Retail Merchants Association deserves our support
In the fight for taxpayer rights, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) deserves our support
By Ray Hanania
When it comes to the rights of taxpayers, no one, it seems, has the courage to fight for taxpayer rights more than the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) which is now being recklessly attacked by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle proposed and pushed through one of the most repressive taxes on consumers, demanding that the taxpayers help her balance a budget that has been bloated and mismanaged by her administration for years.
The 1 Cent Soda Tax adds a penny tax per ounce on every drink sold in Cook County that includes sweeteners, except for those purchased by the poor. Under Preckwinkle’s tax, poor residents who use SNAP to purchase food, would be exempt from paying the tax hike. Most SNAP recipients live in Chicago, where Preckwinkle is based.
IRMA filed a lawsuit to block the tax arguing convincingly that Preckwinkle’s plan would create chaos in the retail business community, noting that it was unclear on how the tax would be collected.
A judge granted a temporary restraining order to allow for a review of the Preckwinkle tax, but later approved its implementation.
In a punitive and chilling assault against taxpayer rights, Preckwinkle then filed a lawsuit against IRMA claiming that the delay cost her mismanaged government $17 million in lost revenues during the 30-day stay.
Wow. When the public demands accountability, Preckwinkle’s response is punitive assault. We’re not talking about a political campaign where lawsuits often are reckless filed to score political points in elections.
Suburbanites are over taxed. They believe Cook County always places the needs of Chicago above the suburbs.
What Preckwinkle should do is withdraw her punitive counter lawsuit against IRMA, restore all the lay-offs, repeal the tax and focus on managing the county better.
Suburbanites have the right to expect that their rights as suburban taxpayers and residents will be respected as much as the rights of residents in Preckwinkle’s Chicago region where she has lived and worked all her life as a former Chicago alderman.
Several county commissioners said they were bullied into approving the tax by Preckwinkle’s staff. Preckwinkle threatened lay-offs and service cutbacks if her tax was rejected.
When the tax was delayed, Preckwinkle identified proposed hundreds of lay-offs and service cutbacks. Now that the judge approved the repressive tax, Preckwninkle’s administration is saying they may still go ahead with the lay-offs and cut backs.
As a suburbanite, I am learning to adjust to Preckwinkle’s taxes. Soda pop is a critical food item. I am willing to pay extra to drive outside of Cook County to not only buy soda but to also buy the groceries I often buy when I go to buy soda. The two are related. I buy one, I buy the other.
Preckwinkle asserts that sweetened soft drinks are “unhealthy.” If that is true then why did she exclude the poor from paying the punitive tax? Is it because many of the poor are in her voter constituency?
I am concerned for retail establishments in the suburbs. And I also am concerned for suburban taxpayers. A few board members like Jeff Tobolski and Sean Morrison have the courage to stand up to the oppressive actions of the County administration. They saw through Preckwinkle’s threats.
IRMA needs our support. When it comes to protecting the interests of suburbanites, IRMA has demonstrated they care. In fact, clearly IRMA cares far more than former Chicago alderman Toni Preckwinkle who’s willing to play into people’s fears than to do the right thing.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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