CITY HALL — Aldermen moved to cut back an increase in the cigarette tax and replace the revenue with an increased fine for parking in front of a fire hydrant in an 11th-hour compromise approved a day before the 2014 budget was to go before the full City Council for approval.
The proposed hike in the cigarette tax would be 50 cents a pack, down from the original 75-cent proposal, and would be offset by an increase in the fire-hydrant fine to $150, up from the current $100 and the original 2014 budget proposal to raise it to $110.
The late compromise also included a $100 reward for those providing information leading to a conviction on illegal cigarette sales.
"This is a move in the right direction," said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), adding that the reward for increased enforcement was key to making it work in the neighborhoods.
Aldermen have complained that the tax increase would encourage the sale of black market cigarettes and the sale of "loosies" on the street, as well as potentially lost business along the city boundaries.
"This continues to drive business out of Chicago," said Ald. John Pope (10th). "This is a good compromise."
City Budget Director Alexandra Holt said the $2 million made up by the increase in the parking fine would make up for the revenue lost by reducing the hike in the cigarette tax. She said state and local taxes would still add $7.17 to the cost of a pack of cigarettes in Chicago, the highest amount of local taxes in the nation.