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$3B Cook County budget gets OK, includes new taxes

Published: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO – The cost of buying a gun or a pack of cigarettes in Cook County will increase next year after officials passed a budget Friday that included tax hikes.

In a 16-1 vote, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a nearly $3 billion budget that includes a $1-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes and a $25 tax on firearms purchased at suburban Chicago gun shops.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle thanked commissioners after they passed the budget, saying she appreciated the "cooperative and collaborative" budget process. The budget notably did not include a Preckwinkle-supported nickel-per-bullet tax. She dropped that idea last week.

"I am grateful to all of you," Preckwinkle said after the vote.

According to officials, Cook County – the nation's second-largest – faces a budget shortfall of more than $260 million. About $86 million of the shortfall is due to the elimination of what was left of a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike that was passed in 2008. Preckwinkle ran for office on a promise to eliminate the tax.

In addition to the cigarette tax hike and tax on firearms, other new taxes include a $1,000 tax on casino slot machines and $200 on video gambling machines in suburban bars and restaurants. The cigarette tax takes effect March 1. The gambling taxes start June 1.

The budget also calls for residents and business owners who make purchases of more than $3,500 outside the county to pay a 1.2 percent tax. The so-called use tax would apply to items such as televisions and appliances.

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