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Our View: The tax squeeze

Updated: November 21, 2012 6:06AM

The pronouncements the other day from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle should make Lake County retailers along our common border and gun shop owners ecstatic for all the business they’ll be getting.

That’s because Cook County smokers are in line to pay $1 more per cigarette pack next year, lifting Chicago’s total cigarette tax bite the biggest in the nation outside of New York, even though there’s still time not to be another second city. Cook County gun owners also will have to pay $25 more in taxes for a gun they buy and an extra five cents for every bullet, as Preckwinkle battles to balance her budget.

We thought government had taxed smokers to the limit, but apparently there’s more to squeeze out of them. Not that we mind all that much, but what happens when people stop smoking or go to other counties or states to buy their cigarettes?

We also thought governments had thought of everything to tax, but, as they say, there’s more. Taxing ammo is an interesting concept.

But like Illinois government and the federal government, the need for increased revenue enhancement is needed because lawmakers at every level don’t know how to quit spending. We’ll venture a guess that increasing cigarette taxes, and beginning gun and bullet taxes, are only stop-gap measures for the county to our south. Especially with rescinding the sales tax increase of a few years ago which was an additional penny on the dollar.

The gun and ammo taxes are likely to face fierce opposition from the gun lobby, but Cook County officials argue that many guns used in Chicago crimes are purchased legally in the suburbs and that it costs the county $52,000 to provide acute care for each gunshot victim it treats.

Last year, 670 gunshot victims came through the Cook County hospital’s emergency room doors. Perhaps if Cook County officials are worried about health costs, they should tax the sale of knives and forks which put people in hospitals, too. That, though, could get close to George Harrison’s “Taxman” warnings of taxing streets, seats, heat and feet.

In the meantime, watch cigarette depots open along the north side of Lake-Cook Road, and gunshops advertising the fact of no Cook County tax when buying guns and ammo. Ka-ching.

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