Commissioners look for alternatives to sales tax.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
by MEGHAN STREIT
Two Cook County commissioners Tuesday floated plans for alternatives to the sales tax increase that President Todd Stroger proposed last month to fill the $239 million budget shortfall.
Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, D-Chicago, laid out a package of vehicle, fuel, alcohol and hotel taxes that he said would generate $123 million annually.
"My approach is to target taxes as much as possible so we can avoid a tax across the board like the sales tax," he said.
Maldonado's five-pronged tax package includes a 1.5 percent alcohol tax for beverages consumed at restaurants and taverns and a 1 percent hotel tax. He said his rationale for these levies is that if someone can afford to pay for cocktails and hotel rooms, they can afford to pay a little more in taxes.
He also proposed increasing the vehicle use tax to 1 percent, raising the motor vehicle weight tax, and expanding the 6 cent per gallon gasoline tax to include fuel for boats, trucks, trains, buses, airplanes and other vehicles.
Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, D-Crestwood, who is the chief sponsor of the ordinance to raise the sales tax by 2
percentage points, said she doesn't think the types of taxes in Maldonado's proposal are the answer to the budget crisis.
"We tax these so-called 'sin taxes' to death," Murphy said. "But I think a sales tax is even across the board, and will solve our problems in the future."
Commissioner Tony Peraica, R-Westchester, proposed slashing departmental expenditures by 2 percent nearly across the board, and eliminating dozens of "duplicative" county jobs.
Peraica's plan would reduce county spending by almost $130 million.
Stroger and his county board allies are pushing to pass the 2008 budget before the new fiscal year begins on Dec. 1. However, the group still needs to secure a ninth vote to pass the president's budget proposal, which calls for $200 million in new sales, gasoline and parking taxes.
Stroger said he's willing to listen to commissioners alternative proposals, but stands by the sales tax as the best solution.
"If you're going to ask for a tax, why don't you ask for a tax that will cover everything instead of asking for five different taxes that will put a burden on a certain group?" Stroger asked. "We should just stick with the sales tax and be done with it."