4 tax hikes a taxpayer bill of rights could have prevented
In 2016, Chicago and Cook County officials approved new tax and fee hikes that will hit already overburdened residents. A taxpayer bill of rights could prevent politicians from constantly nickel-and-diming residents to make up for budget shortfalls.
In 2016, Chicagoans felt the first effects of 2015’s record $700 million tax hike, which added an average 12.8 percent increase to residents’ property tax bills. Nonetheless, in 2016, Chicago and Cook County officials still sought to fill additional budget gaps by piling on more tax and fee increases. However, a majority of the revenue generated from these tax hikes will not provide any new services, instead it will go toward paying for things like day-to-day government operations and massive government-worker pension debt. A taxpayer bill of rights could have prevented politicians from imposing these tax and fee hikes on Chicago and Cook County residents.
Some of 2016’s new tax and fee increases include:
- A water-and-sewer tax hike that will increase over a four-year period. The increase will raise the average homeowner’s bill 7 percent, or $50 in the first year, and increase to 29.5 percent or $225 by the fourth year of the increase. This tax hike is expected to raise $239 million in revenue over five years and the funds will go to the City’s Municipal Employees Pension fund.
- A new penny-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages intended to help fill a $174 million hole in Cook County’s budget.
- A new 7-cent tax on plastic bags, which is expected to bring in about $10 million of revenue to Chicago.
- An increase to the O’Hare and Midway Airport parking fees. This fee increase would raise the daily parking rates from $24.75 to $32 and would increase the valet and overflow parking rates as well. The money generated from these fee increases will go to cover regular city operations.
These tax and fee increases, which come on top of some of the highest sales taxes in the nation and numerous other burdensome taxes, were passed without any input from those paying the bill – taxpayers. However, if Illinois or Chicago had a taxpayer bill of rights then elected officials would have been required to seek voter approval first via a ballot referendum before they could impose any new tax or any increase in taxes and fees. A taxpayer bill of rights also restricts annual government spending to the rate of inflation, adjusted for population growth, and requires any excess revenues above a certain level to be returned to taxpayers.
Chicagoans are tired of constantly being nickel-and-dimed by their elected officials. Chicago politicians need to take serious steps in 2017 to relieve overburdened taxpayers by enacting a taxpayer bill of rights and implementing real fiscal reforms to address the perpetual crises that impel the tax and fee hikes in the first place.