Illinois county raises taxes on cigarettes and guns, ignores pension reform

Facing a budget shortfall of nearly $240 million, Illinois’ Cook County voted to increase taxes on cigarettes, guns and casinos, without addressing the root of the budget deficit.

“The budget was fine, but it ignores the fact that we have a 57 percent funded pension plan. That’s the elephant in the room. Springfield has to make those changes,” said Commissioner Bridget Gainer.

Instead, consumers will pay an extra $1.00 per package of cigarettes, bringing total taxes to $6.67 for a total cost of nearly $10. While the measure could generate an extra $26 million in revenue, convenience stores and smoke shops say it will drive business away.

Controversially dubbed the “violence tax,” there will now be an extra $25 tax on all guns purchased.

“Gun violence is a real problem for us,” Board President Toni Preckwinkle 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.”

Following a violent Chicago summer, the city’s murder rate is up 25 percent and the Cook County jail is near capacity with over 9,000 inmates. Preckwinkle estimates a cost to taxpayers of nearly $52,000 per victim, as nearly 70 percent don’t have health insurance.

Additionally, a gambling tax will impose $1,000 annually on slot machines in the county and $200 on video gambling machines.


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