Reporting Bob Roberts
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Cook County Board Finance Committee on Friday approved $41.7 million in new tax levies, including a controversial $25 tax on the sale of a gun anywhere in the county, and a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax.
The vote by the finance committee, a committee of the whole, sets the stage for final passage of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s $3 billion budget plan next week.
WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports the gun tax was easily the most controversial. It garnered the minimum nine “yes” votes, even after a proposed five-cent-per-bullet tax on the ammunition was eliminated.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th) agreed to go along, giving sponsor Larry Suffredin (D-13th) the ninth vote needed for the gun tax plan, after Suffredin agreed to add an exemption for guns being purchased by members of law enforcement agencies.
Suffredin said the tax — which will help underwrite a $2 million advisory committee to study violence prevention, intervention and reduction — is still helpful, although he was disappointed that it was watered down.
“It’s somewhat confusing how individuals who can support a tax on gaming to support the social costs of gaming, a tax on cigarettes to deal with the health care costs of smokers would have issues with a tax aimed at dealing with the social costs of gun violence,” he said.
He said costs to the county are already “staggering,” both in terms of lives and in long-term care costs for the county.
Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th) was just as adamant that all the $25 will do is drive criminals to the streets to get guns.
“Criminals do not buy guns,” Tobolski said.
Meantime, Preckwinkle’s cigarette tax hike, coming on the heels of a $1-per-pack cigarette tax approved by the state earlier this year, 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.
The cigarette tax hike is scheduled to go into effect on March 1, if given final approval.
The board also approved a 1.25 percent “buy local” tax on big-ticket items costing more than $3,500 and purchased outside of Cook county, as well as a tax on slot and video poker machines.
Preckwinkle’s gambling tax would impose a new $1,000-per-machine tax on slot machines at the county’s only casino in Des Planes, and a $200-per-machine tax on video poker and other video gambling machines operated at restaurants, bars, and other locations.
The levies are part of a plan to erase a $268 million dollar shortfall in the county’s 2013 budget plan.