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Aldermen mixed on Emanuel cigarette tax hike

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed 75-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase is getting mixed reviews from aldermen today.

The increase in the city's cigarette tax is projected to bring in about $10 million. Some aldermen questioned that figure, however, saying the higher tax would result in more black-market and across-the-border sales.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said he supports efforts to discourage smoking but worries about the impact on retail stores.

"For the $10 million revenue gain we get from dramatically increasing that tax, my concern is that we're going to be pushing that business to the suburban communities right across the border from Chicago, where tobacco addicts will be getting their fix. So we don't want to inadvertantly punish Chicago retailers by trying to do something good on public health," Reilly said. "So that is something I think we're going to need to explore. In the greater scheme of a $340 million deficit, a $10 million revenue boost from the cigarette tax may not be worth the negative impact on business."

Also raising questions about the wisdom of the cigarette tax, which opponents say will dampen retail sales and result in the illegal sale of loose cigarettes, was Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, the City Council Budget Committee chairman.

“I just think it will hurt sales,” Austin said. “I want to see what 75 cents is going to cost. . . . . I don’t want to lose our revenue from cigarette sales to another state.”

Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, who has become a strong supporter of the mayor, said he’s glad the budget does not have an increase in property or sales taxes, a sentiment clearly shared by his colleagues.

He then went on to defend the cigarette tax, which is opposed by many of his colleagues and retail groups.

“The cigarette tax has the benefit of leading to a healthier Chicago,” Moore said. “It results in a healthier populace: less people are smoking, and less people need health care. So it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed 75-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase is getting mixed reviews from aldermen today.

The increase in the city's cigarette tax is projected to bring in about $10 million. Some aldermen questioned that figure, however, saying the higher tax would result in more black-market and across-the-border sales.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, said he supports efforts to discourage smoking but worries about the impact on retail stores.

"For the $10 million revenue gain we get from dramatically increasing that tax, my concern is that we're going to be pushing that business to the suburban communities right across the border from Chicago, where tobacco addicts will be getting their fix. So we don't want to inadvertantly punish Chicago retailers by trying to do something good on public health," Reilly said. "So that is something I think we're going to need to explore. In the greater scheme of a $340 million deficit, a $10 million revenue boost from the cigarette tax may not be worth the negative impact on business."

Also raising questions about the wisdom of the cigarette tax, which opponents say will dampen retail sales and result in the illegal sale of loose cigarettes, was Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th, the City Council Budget Committee chairman.

“I just think it will hurt sales,” Austin said. “I want to see what 75 cents is going to cost. . . . . I don’t want to lose our revenue from cigarette sales to another state.”

Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, who has become a strong supporter of the mayor, said he’s glad the budget does not have an increase in property or sales taxes, a sentiment clearly shared by his colleagues.

He then went on to defend the cigarette tax, which is opposed by many of his colleagues and retail groups.

“The cigarette tax has the benefit of leading to a healthier Chicago,” Moore said. “It results in a healthier populace: less people are smoking, and less people need health care. So it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, defended the cigarette tax and said people will need to consider how much money and time they use up to cross borders to get cigarettes.

“At some point, people are going to say, ‘If I really want to smoke, am I going to drive 40 miles and spend 4 bucks a gallon to get the cigarettes? Or do I buy ‘em here? Or, do I quit?” he said. “That coupled with the fact that we’re using a lot of the money to enroll kids in Medicaid that are Medicaid eligible, I think it’s a brilliant use of dollars.”

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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