Cook County budget includes cigarette tax hikes, fees on golf, picnic permits, guns

October 18, 2012 (CHICAGO)

At $3 billion, the proposed 2013 Cook County budget is slightly larger than the $2.9 billion spending plan approved last year.

Under the proposed budget, property owners will not see an increase.

"This year alone we have reduced taxes for everyone by twice as much as we have selectively raised them," said Preckwinkle.

However, Preckwinkle' s proposal includes:

  • Raising the cost of a pack of cigarettes by a $1;
  • Raising the cost for a round of golf on the county's public courses by at least $1;
  • Raising picnic permits in the Cook County Forest Preserves up at least $2;
  • a nickel tax on the sale of every bullet sold in the county, as well as $25 tax on each gun purchase;
  • and $800/year tax on every slot and video gambling machine

She's also calling for the elimination of 400 vacant positions and 10 layoffs.

"Most people I know that smoke go outside of Cook County to buy cigarettes whenever they can, so at some point you're gonna have diminished returns on the tax," Lawrence Latimer said.

Richard Zwiazek said his Newports cost already about $13 a pack in the city.

"How many dollar raises has it been a year? Two or three? It's getting ridiculous," Zwiazek said.

Besides sin taxes, using county recreational areas would cost more; Residents will pay more for picnic permits and rounds of golf.

"To me it doesn't make sense. It's a healthful activity. You would think they would be trying to encourage people to do healthful activities," Randy Harmer said.

As for the so-called violence tax on guns and ammunition, Commissioner John Fritchey doesn't believe it will help reduce crime.

"If the idea is a tax on guns and ammunition is to raise money, then just say so but a nickel a bullet tax isn't going to deter the violence from happening," Fritchey said.

While Preckwinkle says the ammunition tax will help pay for the cost of violence, gun shop owner Don Mastrianni says the tax will drive business away.

"Why would you spend that much in Cook County if you can go someplace else, "said Mastrianni, owner of Illinois Gun Works.

Also under consideration- a small tax on personal property purchased outside Cook County, such as a TV or computer, anything worth more than $2,500.

"There's little doubt in my mind that we are going to have a budget and we are going to have a budget before Thanksgiving will it look exactly like the president's proposal? Probably not," Fritchey said.

"I think this is a very reasonable plan. It's fiscally conservative," said Lawrence Msall, Civic Federation.

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