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More Taxes For Cigarettes, Bullets And Gambling In County Budget

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County could soon get a little more expensive for smokers.

But they aren’t the only ones who will be shelling out more cash if Board President Toni Preckwinkle gets her way.

She is also proposing a new gambling tax. Playing golf or holding a picnic in Cook County forest preserves also would cost more under her budget plan for the Forest Preserve district.

CBS 2's Susanna Song reports Preckwinkle’s proposed $3 billion county budget will include a $1 a pack tax hike in cigarettes as a way to help close a $268 million budget deficit. The tax hike is estimated to raise $25 million in new revenue for the county.

Coming on the heels of a $1-per-pack cigarette tax approved by the state earlier this year, Preckwinkle’s proposed cigarette tax hike would bring the taxes alone on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago to $6.67.

Only New York City has a higher combination of federal, state, county and local taxes on cigarettes, at $6.86 per pack.

In suburban Cook County, the tax on a pack of cigarettes would only be slightly lower than Chicago, at $5.99 per pack, under Preckwinkle’s plan.

Many smokers in Chicago and suburban Cook County already avoid the high tax rates on cigarettes by buying their smokes outside the county. For some brands of cigarettes in Chicago, prices are already $12.45 per pack.

One smoker in downtown Chicago said he buys his cigarettes in Will County.

Corine Brown said she crosses over the Indiana border to buy cigarettes, and she buys cigarettes for her co-workers as well.

“They give me money every week, and I do weekly run to a cigarette store, and bring purchased cigarettes for them, and bring them back to work,” she said. “They’re cheaper. They’re too expensive in Illinois.”

Some think Preckwinkle’s plan is a brilliant way to convince some smokers to kick the habit, while also raising needed money for the county.

Akta Mehta said, “If they’re going to add tax to anything, might as well be cigarettes; to give them motivation to stop purchasing it, and will help close the [budget] gap as well.”

Even some smokers agreed.

Ronald Proctor said, “I don’t think it’s really fair, but what I do like about it – it will deter people from maybe smoking as much.”

Mike Abbinante said, “I got to quit anyway, so I don’t care. … For a dollar tax, gives me motivation to quit. … It’s getting real expensive. So I’m better off. I’m better off just stopping, anyway.”

Preckwinkle is also pushing for an $800 annual tax on every slot and video gambling machine.

And she’s calling for a nickel tax on the sale of every bullet and a $25 tax on the sale of every gun.

There is no plan to increase property taxes under Preckwinkle’s budget proposal.

Under a separate budget plan for the Cook County Forest Preserve district, she’ll also seek increased fees for picnic permits, and higher prices for playing golf at the 10 courses in the forest preserve system.



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