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Stroger wants to double cigarette tax
Total smoking levies in city would top $4

Saturday, December 10, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

The cigarette tax in Cook County would double to $2 per pack under a proposal Board President John Stroger is floating to commissioners to gauge their support.

Along with a 20-cent increase in the City of Chicago tax expected to take effect Jan. 1, a Cook County hike would bring to $4.05 the federal, state and local taxes on a pack of cigarettes in the city.

Stroger is also considering taxes on hotel stays, restaurant meals and chewing tobacco as well as an increase in the sales tax. However, a hike in the cigarette tax appears to have the most support, commissioners said.

Stroger has ruled out raising the property tax levy, said spokeswoman Caryn Stancik, which he has kept essentially flat in his 11 years as president.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who has opposed Stroger's tax proposals, said he could support an increase in the cigarette tax.

"I think we should raise it as much as we can because if we don't somebody else will," Suffredin said.

The cigarette tax has become a favorite among politicians looking to increase revenue without generating much voter backlash.

In 2004, Cook County balanced its budget with an 82-cent-per-pack increase. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has increased the cigarette tax in his two most recent budgets.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich in February proposed raising the state's cigarette levy by 75 cents, but the idea died in Springfield.

A hike at the county level would come on the heels of the Chicago City Council's vote this week to ban smoking in most public places, including taverns in 2008.

Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), who pushed for the 82-cent increase, said he could support another hike of $1.

Stroger is also considering 1 percent taxes on hotel stays and restaurant meals, and a 0.25 percent hike in the sales tax, all of which he has pushed in the last two years but failed to muster the necessary support.

"The president has made it very clear that he's not considering a property tax increase," Stancik said. "All other revenue options are on the table, including tobacco."




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