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Move at state level to repeal Cook Co. tax hike

August 8, 2008 3:58:18 PM PDT
There is new opposition to Cook County's recent sales tax increase. A group of state lawmakers want to take away the county's home rule and force it to roll back the one percent sales tax increase in July that made the sales tax in Chicago the highest in the country.

They also want to put all future sales tax requests in Cook County up to a vote.

New legislation is being proposed to make this happen. The question is, will it sail through Springfield?

Could you envision one level of government ordering another to repeal a tax hike? It would be unprecedented. Constitutionally, it appears possible. But politically, it probably won't fly.

But it's out there now because after almost 40 days of the highest sales tax in the nation, some elected state officials are fuming at their Cook County counterparts.

The owner of one Palatine gas station says his business has taken a noticeable drop when the sales tax hike took effect July 1, when the extra penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike took effect. Just a few miles away in Lake County, gas is 10 to 15 cents per gallon cheaper.

"When you abuse power, you need to have the power taken away," said State Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

A group of Republican state senators want to repeal the Cook County sales tax hike by taking away the county's authority to raise the tax, in other words, this branch of government would be telling this branch of government, you can't do your tax hike.

The state constitution does say the general assembly may deny the limit or the power to tax of a home rule unit, but that would require a three-fifths' majority vote.

"There does come a tipping point. And I think, you know, even with gas prices, there's a point where people say, 'Wait a minute, I really am going to pay attention to this and make decisions based on this tax,'" said State Sen. Chrstine Radogno, (R) Lemont.

The village of Palatine figures it may lose $100,000 in sales tax receipts this year because of the Cook County sales tax hike. Merchants Palatine jeweler Tim Monson say they haven't seen business fall, but are a bit wary nonetheless.

"My customer base is pretty loyal. With the high-end jewelry, they want to shop with somebody they know? But if it keeps getting higher and higher, they will look somewhere else," Monson said.

"If people don't start deliver the government that we deserve, the leaders are going to get fired at the ballot box. And that's the message that needs to be sent," said Murphy.

There would have to be a 60 percent majority vote for the state to tell the county to ditch the tax hike. And it is highly unlikely that two Democratically controlled houses of state government and the Democratic governor would tell a Democratically controlled county board how to do its business.


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