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Don't let Cook County hike utility taxes

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by David Kolata
Letter to the Editor

Many people may not know that the Cook County Board of Commissioners is considering a massive tax increase on electric, natural gas, and telephone service. Combined, these taxes would slap the average family with about $360 in extra costs a year, according to preliminary estimates. That's without the mandated yearly increases for inflation.

This seems to have flown under the media's radar. Maybe that's because the proposal is so outrageous that nobody actually believes it will pass. Unfortunately, it has enough support that all taxpayers should be nervous.

As the winter heating season approaches, Cook County proposes a nickel-per-therm natural gas tax, which would raise the cost of gas by roughly 5 percent. The proposed electric tax would be another .6 cents per kilowatt-hour. That means the County Board would effectively hijack the Commonwealth Edison rate refund consumers fought so hard to earn, as the new tax would exceed the electric credit ordered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the General Assembly for 2008 and 2009.
But if anything, it gets even worse. Cook County actually wants to slap you with a $4 per month tax for each of your home's phone lines, high-speed Internet lines, fax numbers, cell phones -- and perhaps even for each cable connection. That means the average family, which has about five telecommunications services, would be forced to fork over another $240 a year. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "pay phone."

However, it's not too late to stop this harmful proposal. The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) encourages all taxpayers to call the Cook County Board (312-603-6398) and ask to speak to their commissioners. Urge them to reject massive tax increases on services you can't do without.

As the board considers this proposal, we hope they understand that if they try to tax electricity, they're the ones who could end up out of power. We hope they understand that if they tax natural gas, they'll be taking plenty of heat from consumers. We hope they understand that if they tax telephones, consumers could be making a call for new leadership.

David Kolata, Executive Director | Citizens Utility Board

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