DOWNTOWN — Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft face a new attempt to impose an additional tax on them, even as they just prevailed in a lawsuit with Chicago against taxi cabs.
Cook County Commissioners Richard Boykin (D-Chicago) and Robert Steele (D-Chicago) have submitted a proposed ordinance calling for a 50-cent tax on "ride-sharing services" for trips that begin or end in the county.
The ride-hailing services already have a 52-cents-per-ride tax imposed by the City of Chicago.
Uber sent a message to its drivers and riders this week calling on them to lobby Steele and fight the additional tax.
"Ride sharing has helped create economic opportunity for thousands of residents throughout Chicago and helped millions of riders across every neighborhood get from A to B at the push of a button," Uber spokeswoman Molly Spaeth said Wednesday.
"We've seen a strong response from riders and drivers on a measure that would hurt them and our local economy by making ride sharing more expensive, and are glad to see our community members engaged on a matter that’s important to them."
Lyft weighed in as well Wednesday, with spokesman Adrian Durbin saying, "Cook County residents have made it clear that ride-sharing services like Lyft provide them with reliable and affordable transportation options. Rather than moving ahead with an additional, excessive tax, we encourage the county commissioners to support more affordable and accessible transportation options that their constituents rely on daily."
The bad news for ride-hailing services comes just as they claimed victory in a federal appeals court ruling on Friday dismissing a suit filed on behalf of taxis.
Attorney Michael Shakman, arguing in favor of taxis in the case, clashed with Judge Richard Posner in a hearing last month over whether cabs and ride-hailing services were basically the same or entirely different animals.
Posner slam-dunked the suit in a ruling issued Friday, and made that metaphor literal by drawing parallels in the differences between dogs and cats and how one is typically licensed and the other is not.
"There are enough differences between taxi service and [ride-hailing] service to justify different regulatory schemes," Posner wrote in his opinion.
He also dismissed claims by the cab industry that competition from Uber and Lyft had severely cut the value of taxi medallions. While granting that the city had issued the medallions as "property," he added: "'Property' does not include a right to be free from competition. A license to operate a coffee shop doesn't authorize the licensee to enjoin a tea shop from opening."
Posner ordered the suit dismissed with prejudice.
Chicago joined ride-hailing services and the Institute for Justice in defending the suit. Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey issued a statement Wednesday saying: "We are extremely pleased with the court’s ruling, which confirms what we have maintained from the outset: the taxi industry’s legal challenges to the City’s ride share ordinance are completely baseless."
Posner himself was in the news this week over a blistering op-ed piece by conservative columnist Cal Thomas, who took issue with a recent Posner posting on Slate suggesting the U.S. Supreme Court is "at a nadir," and that judges in general shouldn't waste "decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes or even seconds studying the Constitution." Dismissing the Founding Fathers as "eighteenth-century guys," he concluded, "Let's not let the dead bury the living."
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