Mixed reaction from Cook commissioners on county slot machine tax
BY LISA DONOVAN firstname.lastname@example.org
Several Cook County commissioners aren’t ready to hedge their bets on Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s proposal to tax slot machines, to the tune of $800 per machine annually, as she looks to close a $115 million budget gap.
“I’m not a supporter of using gaming dollars to fund the government,” said Commissioner Gregg Goslin, a Northwest suburban Republican.
“Philosophically, that’s where I’m at on it. I don’t think it’s a reliable, responsible way to fund public services. First off, it’s an unpredictable source of revenue. And it seems like we’re building up all these sin taxes — tobacco, alcohol and now gaming,” he said, referring to hikes in the alcohol and tobacco taxes. “It’s funding government on the backs of the vices of our society.”
With the county projecting revenues of $1.3 million from such a tax in 2013, it wouldn’t do much to close a $100-plus million budget gap for next year, he said.
Commissioner John Fritchey, a North Side Democrat, said he’d look at the proposed tax, but said he’s hoping to see some “appropriate” cuts to shore up costs.
“We need to be making sure we’re making appropriate cuts in the budget,” he said. “The last few years, we’ve transformed the image of county government, deciding government can perform through fiscal responsibility rather than continual revenue increases. I’m confident there are budgets of various county offices that need to be” cut, he said. “Every year we engage in the same dance of people saying there’s no room to cut, yet we continue to find areas to cut.”
Preckwinkle will release her roughly $3 billion budget plan on Thursday, which may include the proposal to tax the newly legalized video poker machines in the state as well as the slot machines at the Rivers Casino, the sole casino in the county.