On Wednesday night, Ward Room’s good friend Roe Conn roamed the streets of Chicago, asking passersby what they thought of Rahm Emanuel’s plan to lower the sales tax to 9 percent, while taxing services such as dog grooming, tanning and gym memberships.
Mr. Conn could find no takers, even among people who pale people who don’t work out and hate animals.
“Pet grooming is a selective tax,” one man said. “I think that’s something some of us don’t welcome.”
“Do you have a dog?” Conn asked.
“Health club memberships,” Conn asked a rotund man. “Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“Not all, because it’s hard to go to the health club anyway,” he said. “If I gotta get taxed, I’m certainly not going to go anymore.”
Of course, Conn was canvassing a wealthy-looking downtown neighborhood. He might have gotten different answers in Garfield Park.
Emanuel says the new taxes will actually save Chicagoans $200 to $300 a year. And it’s hard to argue with the justice of a plan that broadens the tax base by levying taxes on upper-class luxuries like limo rides, while lowering taxes on staples of life like clothing and toiletries.
But this is the wrong time to propose a tax increase. Gov. Pat Quinn just used up all the state’s tolerance for higher taxes, and more. No one believes Quinn’s two-point tax increase is temporary, and no one will believe that tanning sessions, once taxed at 9 percent, won’t go up to 9-3/4s, along with everything else.
Also, as mayor, Emanuel won’t be able to alter the sales tax alone. He’ll need the state’s cooperation. Will legislators add another new tax to their records? Probably not.
Carol Moseley Braun is already calling Emanuel’s plan “a tax increase.” It’s a good idea, but he should drop it. At this moment in Chicago history, it really doesn’t help to be known as The Taxman.