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Tax hike would choke hotel industry

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
Letter to the Editor

In another blow to the still-recovering tourism and hospitality industries, Cook County Board President John Stroger proposed in his 2005 budget the imposition of a 2 percent tax on both hotel rooms and restaurant sales in Cook County.

The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau and its member hotels and restaurants strongly oppose this shortsighted new tax proposal.

The new taxes would drive Chicago's hotel room tax rate up to 17.4 percent, the highest in the nation. With the McCormick Place expansion in high gear, this new tax will severely hamper Chicago's efforts to remain competitive in the increasingly competitive convention business.

In the Cook County portion of the Southland, hotel room tax rates, on average, will climb to between 9 percent and 14 percent, averaging around 13 percent. Next door -- in Will County -- hotel room taxes will be about 2 percent lower.

The proposed tax puts Cook County hospitality businesses at a competitive disadvantage, especially for businesses in ''border'' communities, such as Lansing and Tinley Park. In Tinley Park, simply walking across Harlem Avenue will save you 2 percent on your hotel bill or a meal.

If the new Cook County hotel tax is implemented, Lansing residents and visitors can cross into Indiana and take advantage of a 5 percent hotel room tax, averaging about 7 percent less than across the border in Illinois. Also, there is no tax on restaurant food.

It may not seem like much, but to get a better idea of how it works, think about this: How many times have you passed up your local gas station to save a couple of pennies per gallon in the next town?

The irony is that in the Southland, hotels and restaurants already suffer from exorbitant property taxes. They pay their dues to Cook County, and now the county wants to single out hotels, motels and restaurants for even more taxes. It is already difficult enough to make a living as a business owner in Cook County without the added burden of higher taxes. Hardworking people will lose their jobs, and businesses ultimately will close.

We urge all of our Cook County commissioners, and especially the Southland commissioners -- Sims, Murphy, Daley and Gorman -- to research alternative ways to balance the county budget. Additionally, we urge Cook County residents and business people to contact their county commissioners and elected officials to express their displeasure with this tax proposal.

Jim Garrett, president/CEO,
Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lansing



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