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Commissioners charge Preckwinkle’s 2012 budget rife with expanded taxes and fees

Thursday, October 27, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Cook County commissioners began peeling back the layers of Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s 2012 spending plan like an onion Thursday, revealing the strong scent of expanded taxes and fees. Commissioner Larry Suffredin said he was surprised to see Preckwinkle is proposing expanded parking rates and a new tax on coin-operated pool tables.

“The president didn’t mention, though, that she’s raising the parking tax,” Suffredin said, referring to her budget announcement Tuesday. “To not have that mentioned in the speech is troublesome. I think it should have been discussed.”

A 50-cent tax would be added to daily parking fees between $2.01 and $4.99, under the plan. Before, the tax didn’t kick in until the parking fee hit $3. Taxes on weekly and monthly fees on garage parking would expand similarly.

Owen Kilmer, a spokesman for Preckwinkle, said his boss touched on some of the larger tax and fee increases, including a new $4.75 parking fee at area courthouse lots and garages as well as a hike in wholesale alcohol taxes.

“When the President laid out her budget proposal, she addressed the areas that will affect Cook County residents the most, such as increasing the alcohol tax and charging people to park at county courthouses,” Kilmer wrote in an email. “This issue is minor in comparison.”

The expanded parking garage taxes will bring in $1.3 million out of a $2.9 billion proposed budget next year, he wrote.

Preckwinkle’s also proposing a new “Automatic Amusement Device” tax that would charge bars, restaurants and entertainment centers an annual tax of $150 for each jukebox, pool table and any other pay devices that don’t generate prizes. Bars and other outlets would have to pay $225 every year for each prize-generating coin-operated machines, including the carnival-like cranes where the goal is to pick up a stuffed animal.

That tax too will bring in $1.3 million.

Vehicle sticker fees, also known as the “wheel tax” for residents of unincorporated Cook County will double. For sedans, the price will go from $40 to $80 while owners of larger vehicles will pay $100, up from $50, said Zahra Ali, the county’s revenue director.

Suffredin said a hike in building permits and zoning requests also are in the offing.

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