Schneider: Preckwinkle abandoning cable TV tax
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is scrapping efforts to add a 3 percent "amusement tax" to cable TV bills to help close a nearly $200 million budget shortfall, a suburban member of the County Board told the Daily Herald Thursday.
Commissioner Tim Schneider of Bartlett described a "demise" of the Chicago Democrat's proposal over the last few days, noting that he'd heard from other commissioners in recent budget meetings that Preckwinkle didn't have the votes for the plan.
"When you start looking for other taxes, when other things start floating around, you know she's abandoned her plan," said Schneider, who is also the Illinois GOP chair.
Instead, he said, Preckwinkle has "already diverted her attention to scrambling for a soda tax or a hotel tax." The hotel tax, he says, is the "more likely" substitute.
An estimate as to how much the hotel tax might raise was not immediately available, and Preckwinkle's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
The amusement taxes, announced during Preckwinkle's annual budget address last month, would boost revenue by about $21.75 million next year, with most of that coming from the added tax on in-home cable services.
The proposed tax would add $3 to a $100 monthly home cable bill. Satellite dish owners probably would have been exempt from the tax because of federal regulations, Preckwinkle's staff said at the time. Preckwinkle also proposed adding the same 3 percent tax to the costs of golfing and bowling, by eliminating several exemptions currently in place under the county's amusement tax ordinance. Sources familiar with the proposal said those proposed taxes were now off the table, as well.
The money would be used for road improvements and to help cover the county pension fund's $6.5 billion shortfall.
The increases come on top of approval this summer by the board for a penny on the dollar sales tax increase estimated to raise $473 million next year to help balance the budget and shore up the underfunded pension system.
County Board Finance Chairman John Daley, of Chicago, had called the budget a "tough sell" but necessary. But some county board members, including Schneider and Chicago Democratic commissioner John Fritchey, remained opposed to the added taxes.
"I'm not supporting any of the new initiatives of the president and this budget," said Schneider, general partner/owner of the Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin. A tentative hearing on the hotel tax is set for Nov. 13.