Like it or not, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says her cash-strapped county needs higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco to solve a deep deficit.
In the proposed 2012 budget, Preckwinkle called for a hike in the alcohol tax to generate as much as $10.9 million a year in additional revenue.
Beer and wine would see an increase of 6 to 9 cents per gallon, and spirits or any booze that's 20 percent of alcohol by volume or higher would go from $2 per gallon to $2.50. It would partially make up for the quarter drop in sales tax expected at the end of the year.
"The cost of alcohol will go down because we've reduced the sales tax," Preckwinkle said, "so what customers will see is a reduction of their bills as a result of the reduction of the sales tax."
Preckwinkle also wants to close the loophole on the current cigarette tax to include loose tobacco, rolling papers and snuff. She estimates it would generate an additional $12 million a year in revenue.
Some companies aren't pleased with the proposed increases, and owners say it would drive business out of the county. The Distilled Spirits Council on Tuesday blasted the tax, calling it a "job-killing burden" on an already struggling hospitality industry.
"While we appreciate the difficult position the commissioners are in with respect to the budget, the Chicago-area hospitality industry is also in a very difficult position – down 13,000 jobs since the recession," said DISCUS Vice President Dale Szyndrowski in a statement.
But the Respiratory Health Association applauded the proposed tobacco ordinance. Association president Joel Africk said the tax would save lives and discourage young people to avoid non-cigarette tobacco.
The proposed 2012 county budget is slated to go before the board next week.