Proposed County Cigarette, Bullet Taxes Up For Vote

Tax Hikes2The price of cigarettes, gambling and guns could all go up in Cook County if the board on Friday approves a proposed 2013 budget.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle estimates a $1 hike per pack of cigarettes as well as new taxes on bullets and slot machines could generate as much as $40 million in the face of a $240 million budget deficit.

If approved, the cigarette hike would kick in March 1 and increase the tax to $6.67 in Chicago, pushing the cost of cigarettes there to more than $10. It would make cigarettes the second most expensive in the country behind New York, which charges a $6.86 tax.

The measure is expected to pass after the county’s finance committee voted in favor of it.

While convenience stores and smoke shops near the county border say the hike will push business away, Preckwinkle estimates it could generate up to $26 million per year. The money will be redirected into the county’s public health system, and Preckwinkle hopes it will cause a drop in the number of young smokers.

Other measures include a $1,000 annual tax on slot machines in the county, as well as a $200 tax on video gambling machines. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines would be affected as well as establishments that approved video gambling.

Preckwinkle last week revised her proposal to tax gaming machines. Originally she wanted to charge an $800 annual tax on every single machine in the county, but toned it down so those smaller shops would get a break and the bigger entities pick up the tab.

“Our view was that we didn’t want to impact the small, neighborhood businesses and that the casinos could well afford it,” Preckwinkle said.

A new gun tax would charge an additional $25 for every gun purchased. Preckwinkle said the county can’t afford the current state of violence.

“Gun violence is a real problem for us,” she said. “It’s a problem for us in our criminal justice system and it’s a problem for us in our health care system, and I make no apologies for the proposal.”

Preckwinkle said acute care for the average shooting victim cost taxpayers $52,000 because nearly 70 percent of the victims don’t have health insurance.


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