GOOD INTENTIONS AND PURPOSE DO NOT IMPROVE BAD TAX POLICY
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Special to suffredin.org
On July 15, 2015, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 9-7 (with one present vote) to re-enact the 1% sales tax that had been repealed in 2010. I voted "NO." The original 1 % sales tax started in 2008 and proved to be an economic disaster for Cook County, causing the loss of jobs and the closing of many retail businesses. It also caused Cook County residents to pay the highest sales tax in the nation.
For the first time in Cook County history a tax was imposed outside of the budget process. The reason this is significant is that in the budget process there is a planning function that allows for the binding application of the taxes to specific purposes. This budget process helps ensure that the tax is not excessive and that there is no creation of slush funds for future spending.
The new sales tax is both excessive and unnecessary to meet our current needs. The tax will generate $474 million annually, far in excess of what the County needs.
The repeal of the 2008 tax was hailed as an enlightened moment for Cook County and led to an economic resurgence of our retail sales economy. Today we not only threaten that retail economy, but we put our whole County economy on the brink of a serious downturn.
When I voted “NO” on the current year’s budget last November I warned that there was no planning for future public safety, healthcare and pension needs. Today’s return of the sales tax shows that the lack of planning has continued.
The purpose of the new sales tax increase is to stabilize our pensions, help with paying down our debt payments and increase spending on County infrastructure. All of these are laudable ideas, but passing the tax now outside of the budget process does not guarantee that proper allocation of the tax receipts will be made.
In fact, the Administration has stated that the primary goal of making large additional pension payments is prohibited by current Illinois law.
Not only is a sales tax regressive and bad for those with the smallest incomes, it is also an economic disaster for all. The only people who benefit from seeing Cook County’s sales tax raised to 10.25% are the collar counties, whose sales tax is at least 3% lower.
I will now start working to make the case to repeal this unjust tax again.