A committee of the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a 50 percent hike in alcohol taxes, from 6 cents per gallon to 9 cents per gallon, and an extension of the cigarette tax to other tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco, roll-your-own, and cigars. A final vote is expected this week.
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“Cook County already has some of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Almost 60 percent of the cost of every bottle of distilled spirits sold in Cook County already goes to taxes and fees. To raise taxes on alcoholic beverages would make it even more difficult for people to afford to do something as simple as enjoy a drink at a restaurant. It would also invite people to cross county and state lines to avoid paying sky-high Cook County taxes, which would reduce the number of jobs available in the county.”
“It’s difficult to see actions to raise alcohol and tobacco taxes further as anything but an effort to get more revenue. If anyone tries to justify this as a public health measure, they’re simply wrong. The public health research shows higher alcohol taxes can slightly discourage moderate drinking, which, by all accounts, is not harmful. Tax increases have no consequence with regard to serious alcohol dependency or drunk driving. While tobacco taxes can discourage tobacco use--which is, indeed, quite harmful--they are not very effective relative to other public health measures that cost far less and impose a far smaller burden on people at the bottom of society.”
“The Cook County board’s committee approval for raising regressive sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco is more evidence that they are not ready to make the tough decisions to fix the county’s fiscal situation. This regressive tax increase will drive even more jobs away from a struggling economy and not solve the county’s dire debt problems.
“Cook County needs a commitment by the board to implement long-term cost-saving reforms that slow the increasing burden on future residents, not higher taxes on alcohol and other products.”
“Government usually finds taxing ‘sin’ an easy touch. In this case, Cook County will essentially be legislating both winners and losers. Since individual brands of alcohol are ‘price elastic,’ consumers will pay more to consume less while the additional tax funds will go to the county. In the end, both the alcohol consumers and the specific liquor producers will be the ultimate economic losers. Alcohol will cost consumers more and revenues for specific producers could actually decline due to lower demand.”
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