As Chicagoans rang in the New Year, Cook County ushered in the highest sales tax in the nation.
Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, whose officials voted in July to raise the county’s portion of the sales tax, bringing Chicago’s combined rate to 10.25 percent from 9.25 percent.
Chicago is now right back where it was in 2008, when the county raised its rate to 1.75 percent from 0.75 percent (the same leap as the 2015 increase).
Former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger hiked the sales-tax rate in 2008, and lost his re-election bid to current Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2010. Back then, Preckwinkle benefited from momentum against Stroger’s unpopular tax hike, which she ultimately repealed. But her quick about-face shows Chicago politicians increase and decrease the sales-tax rate as it’s convenient.
Chicagoans are the most-taxed residents of any major city in Illinois. Chicagoans pay three times more in local taxes and fees than Naperville residents, twice as much as those in Rockford, and nearly 20 percent more than the residents of Evanston.
The increased sales tax comes on the back of the biggest property-tax increase in recorded Chicago history, which will strap Chicagoans with more than $700 million a year in new taxes and fees when fully rolled out in 2018.
Even with these new tax hikes, Chicago remains mired in fiscal crises: Chicago owes $34 billion in debt to its six city-run and sister-government pension funds.
City and county officials can’t continue to rely on tax increases to run the city. Chicago has never had more money to spend. In fact, the city has over $1 billion in additional revenue today when compared to what it would have if Chicago’s revenue had grown at the rate of inflation over the past 20 years. It’s time for politicians to make difficult decisions and get down to the business of fundamental reform.