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    Chicago-Area Seeks $1 Cigarette Tax Hike

    Increase would bring the total tax on a pack of cigarettes in the county to $4.05.

    CHICAGO -- Cook County Board President John Stroger proposed a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax for the 2006 budget, after indicating last week that he wished to raise the tax even higher by $1.25 a pack, the Chicago Tribune reported.

    Stroger's negotiations Friday with Gov. Rod Blagojevich to bring in $20 million more in health-care funding to Cook County allowed for the smaller tax increase, aides told the newspaper.

    Stroger appears to have the support from county commissioners to pass the increase, which would raise the county's cigarette tax to $2 per pack.

    The tax hike, which would take effect March 1, is expected to generate $75 million next year. The increase would bring the total tax on a pack of cigarettes sold in Chicago to $4.05, the Chicago Tribune reported.

    "The reality is that we have cut expenses to the bone and without some new resources we will be faced with service cuts," Stroger said.

    The budget proposal now goes to the finance committee, where hearings will be held with department heads and elected county officials before a final vote is taken.

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