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County must put end to litany of new taxes

Sunday, January 09, 2005
Daily Southtown

Some Cook County board members are predicting that Board President John Stroger will be unable to get majority support for his 2005 budget, which proposed three tax increases to close a $73 million budget gap.

We hope they're right.

The new taxes a 2 percent increase on restaurant sales taxes, a 2 percent increase on hotel bills and a $200-per-machine tax on amusement devices — will put yet another unreasonable burden on Cook County businesses and will drive some of their customers out of the county.

This is the second year in a row that Stroger is proposing major new taxes to balance his budget. Last year, it was a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. This year, it's hospitality businesses and their customers that will suffer the most — restaurants, hotels and motels and bars.

Stroger, like other Illinois politicians, has recognized that property tax increases are most likely to create political uproar. Each year at budget time, they look for new ways to boost taxes, increase their revenues and do so in such a way that most voters think it is someone else who will pay the taxes.

Hotel taxes affect only out-of-town travelers, the politicians argue. But that's not true. When a tourist decides to stay in a motel on the Will County side of Tinley Park, that's revenue a Cook County business will not get and taxes that Cook County government won't receive. The same is true if a visitor stays in Munster or Dyer instead of Lansing.

Restaurants and hotels in such border communities will lose more of their business to neighboring communities outside Cook County. That will hurt their home communities, many of which already are suffering because of Cook County's inordinately high property taxes.

Some of the newer county board members are accusing Stroger of refusing to consider up-to-date business practices to cut expenditures before demanding more from taxpayers. They should insist on such changes before giving their approval to a new budget.

Stroger and the county board must stop treating Cook County taxpayers as a bottomless well of new revenue. Stroger's and the board's record of holding the line on property taxes is commendable. But the patchwork of other taxes that grow every year because Stroger and the board will not cut spending ultimately affects everyone in the county.

These taxes hit consumers, make it more difficult to run a profitable business and make Cook County a less attractive place to set up shop. In the long run, they will drive commercial enterprise away, and the burden of paying for government will shift even more onto the backs of residential property taxpayers.




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