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Stroger puts cigarette, sales tax hikes to vote today

Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board President John Stroger has scheduled votes today on two of his controversial tax hike proposals: a quarter-percent boost in the sales tax and a jump from 18 cents to a dollar on every pack of cigarettes.

That would push the price of a pack of cigarettes in Chicago to about $5.65 and the sales tax in the city to 9 percent, one of the highest in the nation. Only 1 percent of that is Cook County's. The state gets 6.25 percent; the city of Chicago 1 percent and the RTA three-quarters of a percent.

Opposition members on the Cook County Board have held firm for two months against Stroger's tax hikes, saying they wanted him to trim waste in the county budget first.

It is the first year the board has revolted against Stroger's budget. By law, a 2004 budget must be passed by the end of the month.

All five Republicans and four Democrats have refused to vote for Stroger's budget proposal. The key swing vote, West Side Democrat Earlean Collins, could not be reached for comment Monday. Stroger has tried to persuade her to back at least parts of his budget.

Collins has said that the quarter-percent hike in the sales tax seemed reasonable to her, but it was not clear Monday which way she would vote.

A spokeswoman for Stroger said the president wanted the votes up or down today to know how much he might have to cut from the budget.

An earlier proposal for a 4 percent lease tax in the county appears all but dead and does not appear on the agenda.

Stroger has not presented any proposed budget cuts for the board and has not scheduled a meeting to discuss board members' proposed cuts.

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