AFSCME pressuring Cook County Commissioners to raise sales, alcohol, parking and cigarette taxes
AFSCME officials proposed seven tax increases for Cook County as a way to save union jobs, including an increase in the county sales tax, a new head tax and doubling the amusement tax to 6 percent, despite the county’s local tax burden already being among the highest in the nation.
To ward off potential layoffs in the wake of a temporary injunction of the Cook County soda tax, officials from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, have pitched a bevy of new taxes for the county.
The Daily Line shared a copy of a document AFSCME circulated that suggests seven tax increases as a means to prevent county layoffs from taking place. County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has claimed the delay in the implementation of the new soda tax will cost 1,100 Cook County government jobs, and she sent out about 300 layoff notices July 14. Among the suggested increases are a quarter percent sales tax increase, doubling the amusement tax to 6 percent and instituting an $11 per month per employee head tax. This pressure from the union certainly spells disaster for taxpayers.
The tax recommendations
AFSCME’s suggested 25 percent is particularly tone deaf. In 2016, Cook County raised its portion of the sales tax 1 percent in order to fill a budget shortfall giving Chicago the highest combined sales tax in the nation at 10.25 percent. The sales tax pushes even higher to 11.5 percent when accounting for food or beverages purchased in the Loop thanks to a Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority tax and the restaurant tax.
In addition to pushing for a sales tax hike, AFSCME is recommending increases in the alcoholic beverage tax and cigarette and tobacco tax. These two taxes are already among the highest in the region and even the country. The existing effective rate on alcohol in Chicago is currently 28 percent before the proposed doubling of the Cook County rate. Similarly, the existing cigarette and tobacco tax puts Chicago at the top of the list at per pack cost at $6.16 per pack. AFSCME is recommending an additional $1 per pack on top of that.
These recommendations would also make it more costly to visit the city and county by tacking on to the hotel tax, amusement tax and parking tax. Chicago is already home to one of the higher hotel taxes at 17.4 percent, which would increase by an additional 1 percent. And if you park your car near your hotel? That will cost you an additional 9 percent or an additional 13.5 percent for weekly parking.
AFSCME and the Chicago Teachers Union, among other parties, have long sought to implement a “head tax” on employers with 50 or more employees. Companies would be forced to pay $11 per month, per employee just for doing business. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fought this tax noting that it’s a job killer.
AFSCME’s recommendations, whether taken alone or as a package, would push taxes even higher, putting more stress on already overburdened taxpayers. It would also increase the out migration to significantly higher numbers.