Preckwinkle proposes tax on cable TV, golf, bowling
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wants to add a 3 percent tax to cable TV bills, a "tough sell" that she says nevertheless is modest compared to a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase approved over the summer.
Preckwinkle also proposes adding the same 3 percent tax to the costs of golfing and bowling to help close a nearly $200 million budget shortfall next year.
Her new plan also would raises taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products.
The taxes would boost revenue by about $21.75 million next year, with most of that coming from the added tax on in-home cable services.
The proposed tax would add $3 to a $100 monthly home cable bill. Satellite dish owners probably would be exempt from the tax because of federal regulations, Preckwinkle's staff said.
The taxes would eliminate several exemptions currently in place under the county's current 3 percent "amusement tax" ordinance. The money would be used for road improvements and to help cover the county pension fund's $6.5 billion shortfall.
"This year we must have hard choices to live within our means," Preckwinkle told board members in Chicago Wednesday. "We do not make these decisions lightly."
She called the tax hikes "very modest," especially in comparison with "the heavy lifting we had to do this summer" to raise the sales tax.
Along with increasing taxes, Preckwinkle's proposed budget includes roughly $108 million in cuts. Her office says that includes $13 million in "management initiatives" that include demolishing three divisional jail buildings and $11 million in health benefit savings after union contract negotiations that increased employee health care contributions.
Across the county, 51 positions will be eliminated, with half coming from the office of the president, Preckwinkle said. The other half would come from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's office.
"Workforce reductions are necessary, but they're not enough," Preckwinkle said.
Noting that she believes the county is stronger than when she took office five years ago, she said the plan "charts our course moving forward."
Sales-tax rates in many Cook County suburbs will hit double digits Jan. 1. The sales tax in unincorporated areas will rise to 9 percent, including state and Regional Transportation Authority charges. But many suburbs have their own 1 percent sales tax, raising the total sales tax in many towns to 10 percent, or $10 on a $100 purchase.
Sales taxes will climb to 10.25 percent in Rosemont and in the Cook County portions of Bensenville, Elgin and Hinsdale, as well as in the business district of Mount Prospect.
As a result of the increase, the county will get 1.75 percent, the RTA gets 1 percent and Illinois gets 6.25 percent.
The sales tax is 7.25 percent in DuPage County, and Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties each have a 7 percent sales tax, plus municipal sales taxes.
The Cook County increase is estimated to raise roughly $473 million a year.
Preckwinkle said while she's sought help from Springfield, the county isn't banking on it.
"As we can see from the current (budget impasse) in Springfield we were right to act," she said Wednesday, alluding to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's and the Democratic-controlled legislature's continued failure to agree upon a budget.
County Board Finance Chairman John Daley, of Chicago, called the budget a "tough sell" but necessary.
Some board members indicated they'll take some convincing.
"There's only so much of a burden you can put on taxes and businesses before you reach a tipping point," Commissioner John Fritchey, also a Chicago Democrat, said.