Days before her 2014 budget address, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's bid to balance this year's spending plan took a hit Tuesday when a judge ordered the county to stop collecting a tax on certain big-ticket items purchased outside the county.
Cook County Circuit Judge Robert Lopez Cepero's ruling makes permanent a preliminary injunction against the tax he ordered in July.
The tax targets individuals and companies based in the county who go elsewhere to save money on large expenses such as office supplies or equipment worth more than $3,500. It does not include real estate and vehicle purchases.
The county plans to appeal Cepero's ruling. "We intend to petition the circuit court for a stay of the injunction, and we are prepared to move immediately to the appellate court as soon as the judge issues his written order," said Preckwinkle spokesman Owen Kilmer.
Preckwinkle is set to unveil her 2014 budget Thursday. She told the Tribune last week that it would include "no taxes, no fines, no fees, no increases."
Kilmer said he did not immediately know what the financial hit would be to the county if the tax cannot be collected again. Because Cepero already had issued a temporary injunction, county officials were not counting on a great deal of revenue from the tax this year.
Attorney Michael Wynne, who represented the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in its lawsuit challenging the use tax, called it "a very invasive tax."
Preckwinkle has been trying to save the signature revenue booster. In June, Cook County commissioners cut it from 1.25 percent to 0.75 percent, a move Preckwinkle hoped would bring it into line with federal tax rules and bolster the county's case in court. The Preckwinkle administration estimated that lowering the tax to 0.75 percent would cost the cash-strapped county about $5 million this year.
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