Sin tax bill stirs debate

May 22, 2009 Lawmakers are pushing a bill to raise taxes on liquor and legalize video poker to help pay for the rebuilding of roads, schools and other structures in Illinois.

At the Chief O'Neill pub in Avondale the proprietors say they absorbed the last round of state and county sin tax hikes. But in this recession -- at this time -- not again.

"These are tough times and taxing people more, I don't see that…as a worthwhile solution to making things better for the public," said Brendan McKinney, Chief O'Neill's Pub.

Industry representatives say the tax hikes passed by Illinois lawmakers will ramp up the cost of spirits in Chicago to the point where wine and liquor taxes are 77 percent higher than in New York.

"We're part of the hospitality industry. The sector like restaurants and hotels where some of the people who are most hurt by this, single moms, people are finding their first jobs, they end up losing business as conventions go from Chicago to Orlando and Las Vegas," said Tony Abbinante, Diageo Spirits PLC.

But construction workers and other laborers stand to benefit. According to analysis by the teamsters, the increases amount to 2 cents on a six pack of beer, 13 cents on a bottle of wine and 80 cents on a bottle of spirits and they say, "These tax increases are not as significant as they could be. They should be made to fund important projects to get thousands of Illinois laborers back to work."

Those opposed to expanded gambling say the sin tax increase is misguided.

"I think it's very irresponsible because it says to people we all want you to come into restaurants and bars and your American legion club and we want you to spend your money, lose your money because the only way they make money is for people to lose money," said Doug Dobmeyer, task force to oppose gambling.

Gov. Quinn's ethics reform bill is also stalled as part of the budget process.

On Friday, state senate democrats delayed voting on a package of reforms arising from the state's electoral reform commission. And the state senate just voted down a plan for 4 new casinos, including one in Chicago, to help fill an $11 billion budget deficit.

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