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Cook County commissioner pitches sales tax hike
By Stacy St. Clair | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/19/2007 12:16 AM

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Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy proposed a sales hike Tuesday, saying the county has no other choice.

Her plan would raise the county's sales tax to 2.75 percent -- a major jump over the existing 0.75 percent tax on retail goods. The increase would affect hotels and restaurants, as well.

Officials estimated the proposed ordinance would give the cash-strapped county an extra $250 million annually. The money would be used to stave off the pending deficit in the 2008 budget, Murphy said.

"We can't cut anymore," she said. "We have to get some revenue in."

The plan -- which now will go to the county's finance committee -- is one of many tax hikes being considered by commissioners. Additional taxes on electricity and natural gas already have been introduced.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has not endorsed any plan.

The Northern Illinois Business Advocacy Coalition, however, has taken a stand against the myriad tax hikes. The coalition worries the proposals -- in particular the sales tax increase -- would put Cook County businesses at a disadvantage.

Business leaders worry shoppers will opt to purchase goods in Lake, DuPage or Kane counties, where the sales taxes are much lower. Under Murphy's plan, for example, Mount Prospect would have a total 10.75 percent sales tax beginning in January, while Oak Brook's and Bloomingdale's only are 6.75 and 7.25 percent, respectively.

"Cook County retailers find it difficult to compete now," said Jim Uszler, a coalition board member and executive director of Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce. "This is going to make the situation worse."

Murphy says the county has no other choice because it already has gutted programs and eliminated jobs.

"I would ask them (opponents) another way to get revenue in," she said. "I don't know what else I can do."

Local businesses, however, maintain it's not their responsibility to fix the county's budget woes.

"The county has to live within its means instead of going back to the taxpayers," Uszler said.