Boykin proposes gas tax hike to pay for jobs program
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
by Mitch Dudek
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin on Monday proposed hiking the gasoline sales tax to pay for a program to create jobs for teens and young adults in troubled parts of the county with the aim of reducing street violence.
Boykin said the 4 cent increase — which would be on top of the 6 cents the county tax already collects on every gallon of gas sold — would cost the average driver about $28 a year.
The tax would generate about $50 million to pay for the Community Stabilization and Anti-Violence Act of Cook County.
Boykin expects to introduce the program at the Cook County Board meeting on April 13. If passed, he said it could go into effect by June 1.
Boykin envisions funding jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds that would be part of cleanup efforts such as rehabbing abandoned properties, removing graffiti and neighborhood infrastructure projects.
The proposal calls from the creation of a jobs council to oversee the employment program. Most council members would be Cook County commissioners.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart endorsed the plan, which was announced Monday at a news conference at the offices of the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan.
Dart said nonviolent jail detainees who return home with few job options would benefit from the program.
“They’ll tell me over and over again ‘Well, I can always make money selling dope.’ Well we’ve got to give them better options than that,” he said.
“Frankly, we’re obligated to do it. There’s too many people who have died needlessly, and us in government, we can’t stand idly by and say we’re just going to try doing the same old stuff. We’ve got to try new things,” Dart said.
The heads of several suburban police departments also attended the news conference to endorse the jobs plan.
“If young folks are actively engaged in employment that means they are off the street. It means they’ve got money in their pockets legitimately and maybe get some self worth,” Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said.
Under the plan, $45 million would go toward job creation, $2 million toward county policing and the hiring of additional officers to patrol high crime areas, $2 million to parenting grants geared toward violence prevention and $1 million to better integrating people with disabilities into their communities.
“There’s nothing more important and critical to the survival of Cook County than investing in our young people,” Boykin said.
“We must prioritize these communities that have 20-plus percent unemployment. … This is a violence reducer and this a hope producer. That’s what this is,” he said.
Andrew Wells, director of workforce development for the Urban League, said employment will ultimately reduce street violence.
“Nothing stops a bullet like a job,” he said.