* I told subscribers about this earlier today…
Democratic Senate President John Cullerton on Tuesday intends to call for $1-a-pack increase in the state cigarette tax to avoid missing a road construction season as Illinois’ major public works program hangs in limbo.
The call by Cullerton, D-Chicago, comes after a state appellate court in January tossed out the law that authorized the $31 billion construction package and with it the liquor tax increase and video poker legalization that were to pay for it all.
The judges ruled lawmakers bundled too many topics in one piece of legislation to pass constitutional muster. The ruling is on hold while the Illinois Supreme Court hears the case filed by Rocky Wirtz, the owner of a liquor empire and the Blackhawks hockey team. Wirtz opposed the higher liquor tax.
Aides said Cullerton remains confident the high court will overturn the ruling, but doesn’t want to wait and risk missing a construction season that could put people to work.
The state’s 98-cent-a-pack cigarette tax has been in place since 2002, and Illinois rests in the middle of the pack nationally among states with cigarette taxes. New York has the highest state cigarette tax in the country at $4.35 a pack.
A cigarette tax increase in Illinois is no sure legislative bet, however. Attempts to raise the cigarette tax by $1.01 a pack in January stalled in the House by a 51-66 vote. Sixty votes were needed for passage. […]
The video-poker component that would have placed the electronic gambling machines in bars and restaurants throughout the state has been a virtual non-starter since it was imposed in 2009.
Chicago has refused to permit the machines in the city while more than 60 other local governments have voted to opt out of the controversial program.
* A recent poll by the Paul Simon Institute found that a large majority of southern Illinoisans supports the buck a pack tax hike…
The poll, taken Feb. 14-22, showed 60.3 percent of registered voters in the state’s southernmost 18 counties favor a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. There were 36 percent opposed. The rest were undecided.
But when asked about raising other taxes, such as the sales tax or the income tax, southern Illinoisans were opposed and said they favored cuts to spending to plug the state’s budget deficit. The inaugural Southern Illinois Poll, conducted last year, found similar opposition.