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County Commissioners Give Initial Approval To Preckwinkle's Proposed Tax Hikes

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 5, 2012 8:30PM

2011_6_11_cook_county_seal.jpg The Cook County Board Finance Committee approved on Friday the series of tax levies and fee hikes proposed by Board President Toni Preckwinkle that are the centerpiece of her 2013 budget. Preckwinkle presented her budget in mid-October with a $25 tax on every firearm purchased in Cook County; a five-cent per bullet tax; a $1 increase in the cigarette tax; an $800 charge to every new video gambling machine in Cook County and a $5 fee for every “confirmation of death” letter from the county morgue.

The new taxes and fee hikes were expected to raise nearly $43 million in revenue. Those numbers were amended to $41.7 million after Preckwinkle removed the bullet tax from play last week. Since all 17 county commissioners sit on the Finance Committee, there’s little doubt Preckwinkle’s budget will pass and, when it does, the combined taxes on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago will increase to $6.67 per pack. If the cigarette tax keeps increasing, it may soon be cheaper to smoke pot.

Will this mean more smokers will travel outside the city limits to buy their smokes? A 2008 study by UIC professor David Merriman theorized Chicago lost 75 percent of cigarette tax revenue; based a cross-section of cigarette tax stamps he found in Chicago came from outside the city, and there was a good market for bootleg cigarettes. Preckwinkle isn’t concerned about that, however, and believes the tax will be great if it encourages youngsters from not picking up the smoking habit.

The full budget will be voted on this week.