Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cook County tax hikes could inadvertently boost quality of local life

It amused me to learn Friday that Cook County government has come up with a balanced budget plan for the upcoming year – one that will put a tax increase on the cost of a deadly little object.

I'd rather remain on the Illinois side of the state line, away from this Hammond, Ind.-based business. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

No, I’m not talking about county board President Toni Preckwinkle’s expressed desire to tax the cost of bullets. She had to back off of that dream a while back – or else risk turning the county board into a battleground for the National Rifle Association and their allies.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED is that Preckwinkle got the overwhelming majority of the county board to increase the county’s share of taxes on tobacco products.

An extra $1 per pack of cigarettes – which county officials say they hope raises another $25.6 million during 2013. That will help raise some of the revenue that will be needed if the county government is to maintain all the programs (particularly with regards to health care) that people have come to expect from them.

Of course, we’re going to hear the “stink” of people complaining in the southeastern portion of the county.

I’m talking the 10th Ward, along with Thornton and Bloom townships – those areas that have municipalities whose eastern boundary is actually State Line Road (a.k.a., the Illinois/Indiana border).

THEY’RE GOING TO complain about the flood of people who will rush across the state border to make their cigarette purchases – usually loading up with cartons by the trunk full.

I don’t doubt that it will happen. There are far too many of those little storefronts with signs out front advertising businesses named “Smokes” or other cutesy monikers – all of whom claim as their advantage the fact that you can save yourselves a buck or so per pack of cigarettes (along with firecrackers and cheap pop) IF you purchase them there.

Personally, I find many of those storefronts to be so skuzzy in décor that I really wouldn’t want to be seen hanging around them. But I suppose some people are so eager to save themselves some cash on their tobacco habit that they’ll make the drive to the Hoosier State.

Which I would think becomes a “plus” for the image of Illinois and Chicago – the nicotine addicts are fleeing us for somewhere else.

BUT SOME WILL try to claim it as a loss for Cook County – even though it ignores the fact that there are large swaths of the county that are too far away from the county line for such a trip to be practical.

Kind of like those people who use up gasoline while driving around for a place that sells gas for a nickel a gallon cheaper!

Of course, Preckwinkle got her “shot” in at firearms. The county might not be charging a special tax on ammunition (aside from the sales tax already in place). But there will still be a $25 fee charged on the purchase of each firearm.

Which will still infuriate the NRA-types, even though the number of firearms dealers in Chicago proper is zero. Which makes this a suburban issue for those dealers who try to locate as close to Chicago as possible while not actually being within the city limits.

THERE MAY WELL be 10 counties in Illinois who voted earlier this week to have the state issue permits to allow people to carry firearms concealed on their persons. But they’re not from around here. They truly are in the rural parts of Illinois that try to live in seclusion from the “real” world.
PRECKWINKLE: Doing us a favor?

If our local firearms dealers want to relocate to a more politically-sympathetic place, I’d be all for it – even if it would result in the loss of the tax revenue that Preckwinkle and company seem determined to raise with their new fee.

Let them go. They’d be enhancing the quality of life in Chicago and Cook County with their absence!


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