CITY HALL — A 75-cents-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax and what amounts to a two percent hike in the amusement tax for cable television both were affirmed in the final 2014 city budget Monday.
The Finance Committee approved both measures Monday over little opposition.
The city's share of the cigarette tax will rise from 68 cents a pack to $1.43 with the 2014 budget to be voted on later this month. Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) wondered aloud about the "impact on crime," and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) added concerns about "the illegal trade we have created." Both have raised issues over black-market cigarettes and the sale of "loosies" on the street, and Hairston hit what she called "smoke and mirrors" in the budget process.
Yet Budget Director Alexandra Holt countered that it was not just a monetary issue, but also would address public health. According to Holt, the tax increase would produce total cigarette tax revenues of $17.6 million extending this year's sales to 2014, but she estimated a 30 to 35 percent drop in sales, thus budgeting for $10 million in revenues from the cigarette tax.
Holt said the extra cash would be used to expand a Chicago Public Schools vision program, as well as an initiative to enroll eligible CPS students in Medicaid.
The Finance Committee also confirmed a reduction in the break cable TV companies receive on the amusement tax from 5 to 3 percent, in effect passing a 2 percent tax increase on to cable television subscribers. Holt estimated the average city cable bill at $80, meaning an increase of $1.60 a month, although Hairston said that estimate was low for most subscribers.
The committee also signed off on increases in various parking fines and storage fees for impounded cars.
The measures passed by voice vote, although Ervin asked to be recorded as voting no, objecting to what he called "accounting tricks and gimmicks."
The 2014 budget is expected to be completed Wednesday for passage next week.