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    Chicago County Faces Cigarette Tax Hike

    Layoffs also possible, says Cook County finance committee chair.

    CHICAGO -- The Cook County budget will likely include an increase in the county sales and cigarette taxes, predicted finance committee chairman John Daley, but it will also include "substantial" cuts and possible layoffs, reported the Daily Southtown.

    Where those cuts will be and how deep they will go will be determined by negotiations between board president John Stroger and a group of opposition commissioners as they deal with dueling budget proposals, according to the report.

    On Tuesday, Daley said cuts probably will have to be made in several departments. "I think all the other constitutional officers ? better realize their budgets might be cut substantially," he said.

    Daley's acknowledgment was one of the first indications from a Stroger ally that a compromise budget would include both tax increases and spending cuts. Stroger's proposed budget has been in limbo for weeks after a group of mostly freshman commissioners, both Democrats and Republicans, successfully blocked it, the newspaper reported.

    Daley said the lease tax will probably be replaced in the final compromise budget with an 82-cent increase to the county's cigarette tax, which should generate the same amount of revenue. The increase would raise county taxes on cigarettes to $1 per pack, according to the report.

    Commissioners on the finance committee heard 21 people testify on the proposed cigarette tax Tuesday, with pro-tax public health advocates slightly outnumbering anti-tax representatives of the business community.

    William McCloskey, vice president of Riverside-based Texor Petroleum, said owners of small convenience stores will be hardest hit. "You can't keep coming after the same core of businesses to support this county," McCloskey said.

    Daley said he doesn't expect a vote on the cigarette tax or any other tax until the board convenes to discuss the entire budget sometime next month, according to the Daily Southtown.

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