Updated: December 1, 2012 4:20PM
For the second year in a row, the proposed Cook County budget contains new and higher fees and taxes designed to offset the lost revenue from phasing out the higher county sales tax approved in 2008.
When she ran for board president in 2010, Toni Preckwinkle vowed to rescind the last half of that 1-percentage-point sales tax hike and will achieve that as of Jan. 1. We’re impressed with her keeping that promise and trying to reform a notoriously bloated government — including reducing spending by about $100 million from two years ago — but we wish she’d quit trying so hard to limit the benefits of the lower sales tax.
In her 2013 budget plan, Preckwinkle wants to raise the cigarette tax and create a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition, an $800 yearly license fee on gambling machines and a 1.25 percent tax on major purchases (more than $3,500) made outside the county — all to raise about $43 million per year, or half the amount to be lost from killing the sales tax hike.
All this on top of last year’s increases in the taxes on titled property (such as cars and boats) and wholesale alcohol and a new tax on cigars and chewing tobacco. And her plans, later dropped sensibly, for a parking fee at county courthouses and a special tax on residents of unincorporated areas to cover police patrols.
We’ve expressed our opposition to the “guns & ammo” tax as not worth the trouble — it won’t prevent criminals from getting guns, will penalize law-abiding gun owners and will cost the county a ton of money to fight a lawsuit by the gun lobby. We also don’t like the 1.25 percent use tax that aims to encourage businesses to buy from Cook County vendors. It unfairly limits businesses’ purchase options and gives them another reason to leave the county.
We can live with the cigarette tax increase because of its health benefits in deterring smoking. We also don’t have a problem with the fee on gambling machines, though the industry is sure to sue to stop it if it passes.
It’s the cumulative effect of all these extra taxes that irks us. Overtaxed Cook County residents don’t need to be nickel-and-dimed more. Preckwinkle has wielded the budget ax pretty well but needs to swing it harder.