Cook County board approves sales tax hike, making Chicago's among nation's highest

Consumer taxes in Cook County will increase by 1 percentage point next year as a result of a vote Wednesday by commissioners to impose a sales tax hike designed to address the county's pension funding woes.

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The county sales tax is currently .75 percent and would rise to 1.75 percent. That would make Chicago's total sales tax rate 10.25 percent, among the nation's highest.

Before the 9-7 vote, board President Toni Preckwinkle said the extra tax money is needed to restore financial health to the county's government worker pension fund, which has a $6.5 billion shortfall. She added there is no support for a property tax hike.

Preckwinkle noted she has reduced county costs, including cutting payroll, since first taking office in 2010.

"But today is not about current county operations, it's about the county's future," she said.

Preckwinkle campaigned in 2010 against a 1-cent tax increase adopted in 2008 by the county board. After winning, she moved to roll back the tax, eliminating it in 2013.

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Officials with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, and the Civic Federation, a budget watchdog group, expressed testified against the sales tax increase

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall noted his group has praised Preckwinkle for her efforts to streamline government. However, he said a sales tax increase should not be considered before Preckwinkle unveils her 2016 budget proposal later this year.

"All of us are frustrated by what's going on in Springfield ... but that does not justify and does not mandate that you go forward on a sales tax increase," Msall said.

Union representatives, public health system doctors, county employees and retired county workers spoke in favor of the increase.