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Cullerton: Replace video poker with cigarette tax hike

Tuesday, Mar 15, 2011

* 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.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:39 am:

    I am surprised that the PSI poll did not also ask whether the respondent was a smoker or not. I would think aligning the pro/con on cigarette taxes would have a very high correlation to that factor. :)

  2. - OneMan - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:43 am:

    There was a local revenue piece to Video Poker, would the cig tax increase have that?

  3. - Fed up - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:44 am:

    I have no problem with a higher cig tax. I am not a smoker but will be the first to admit the anti smoking laws passed in Illinois are something I enjoy. I hope Illinois doesn’t backslide and let smoking return to bars and eatery’s. I also favor a slight increase in liquor and junk food. I do drink and eat crap food but paying a little extra to make this choice is better than an increase in income or property taxes. Aside from that I still think slots and video poker at midway and Ohare would be a good idea.

  4. - Matt - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:45 am:

    Looks like I’ll have to start heading across the border to stock up on cigarettes.

  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:58 am:

    I was very surprised the cigarette tax didn’t pass last time. The arc on society’s tolerance of smoking is clear — less, and less, and less. If the majority can tax something they dislike out of existence, my guess is they will, eventually.

    Heck, when I was a kid, my gym teacher smoked in class. My junior high math teacher used to send me across the street to the gas station to pick him up a couple packs of Luckys. And the teacher’s lounge was a permanent haze

  6. - Tom Smith - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:59 am:

    No to Cig tax No to Liqour. Yes to junk food

  7. - Been There - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:10 am:

    ===I was very surprised the cigarette tax didn’t pass last time.===
    My guess is the black caucus looks at this as a regressive tax that hits up many who cannot afford it. You would think jacking up the price would cause many to quit but I guess its not that easy.
    Also, many Reps who’s districts border other states are taking into their consideration their local store that loses business to neighboring states.

  8. - LakeviewJ - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:14 am:

    If memory serves, the only neighboring state with lower cig taxes is Missouri, right?

    I’m all for the cig tax, the more we can reduce smoking, the better off we’ll be in the long term.

  9. - amalia - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    just do both!

  10. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:27 am:

    Enough with the cigarette tax nonsense. It is not fair to continuously target smokers just because one can and just because its the path of least resistance. In the end, Illinois is going to continue to push more and more smokers to buy their cigarettes on the black market, through the internet, or other means. It’s happening already.

  11. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:31 am:

    – In the end, Illinois is going to continue to push more and more smokers to buy their cigarettes on the black market,–

    If anyone could direct this smoker to the nearest black market outlets in Cook County, I’d be much obliged, lol.

  12. - John Bambenek - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:33 am:

    It’s time to start the “Light up for Jobs!” campaign to encourage smoking. We need more people burning those death sticks if we’re going to be able to spend $31B.

  13. - amalia - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:33 am:

    maybe Rod and Patti can discuss it on the radio tomorrow morning.

  14. - Robert - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:38 am:

    popular in a poll, raises revenue, and reduces consumption (though probably just slightly) - I like it! Yes, some will find their smokes elsewhere, but the effect of past large cigarette tax increases in Chicago, Cook, and the state has still been more revenue, with a smaller drop in consumption.

  15. - Anon - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:43 am:

    increasing the cig tax wouldn’t hurt the budget. In fact if Illinois adult smokers bought a pack a day it would bring in more than 600 million. Check for yourself:

  16. - Springfield Skeptic - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:45 am:

    What about a sales tax on services. Not necessarily the same as on regular purchases, but something that would raise enough revenue to offset.

  17. - Say WHAT? - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:48 am:

    My thought is that I am going to get angry phone calls and e-mails in opposition beginning today.

  18. - piling on - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:50 am:

    Only way a sales tax on services passes is if its to lower the overall rate.

  19. - D.P. Gumby - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 10:52 am:

    increase cig tax by .50 and do the junk food tax, esp. soda tax.

  20. - GMatts - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 11:13 am:

    Cullerton is a thoughtful person I am beginning to respect. If you want less of something, tax it. Fewer smokers, slower rise in health care costs. And less litter. Go, Johnny, Go…GO Go

  21. - 10th Voter - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 11:29 am:

    I don’t smoke, but I do drink. And I occasionally mix my drink with sugary mixers. With all that being said, I am for taxing it all. It is my choice, not my right to enjoy these things. Charge me more for them compared to healthy things!

  22. - Ghost - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 11:45 am:

    I support this. I have the same opinion Cullerton subscribes to as Rich reported in the CapFax.

  23. - Just_Wondering - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 11:46 am:

    Hmm increase cigarette tax to pay for ROAD Construction vs cigarette realated health issues.

    Why NOT increase Fuel Tax by $1.00 a gallon?
    Spread it out to all that use the road systems.
    I’m pretty sure it would bring in more money too.

  24. - Bigtwich - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 12:20 pm:


    We are going to have to increase gas taxes. It is required by more fuel efficient vehicles. But, whit gas prices around $3.50 and people talking about $5.00 a gallon, probably not the time to have that conservation.

  25. - question? - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 12:24 pm:

    Good idea! Support this 100%.

  26. - Cook County Commoner - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 12:46 pm:

    New York has a flourishing underground trade of cigarettes brought in from low tax states. Illinois can join in and create business opprtunities for the more daring by raising the cigarette tax. I recommend raising the cigarette tax $3.00. Such a move may hasten my retirement.

  27. - formerpolitico - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:01 pm:

    This guy Cullerton never met a tax hike he didn’t like!

  28. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:07 pm:

    I think another buck a pack will help me quit smoking, so I’m for it. I’m also for slots and video poke at the airports.

  29. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:16 pm:

    Heck, with $4.00 gallon gas, I can’t go to Indy or Wisconsin to buy my cigs either.

  30. - frustrated GOP - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:38 pm:

    Can we have a wirtz tax, he caused this problem. I like what he’s done with the hawks, hate his “mob” I mean booze business. Let’s just tax J&D for being jerks. Ok, on topic. regarding gas tax, doesn’t that go up a lot when the price goes up, what is the increased revenue expectation for the State with the new prices, and can’t that go for highway work?

  31. - mokenavince - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:42 pm:

    My booze costs more so I think Cullerton is on the right track for once. But fool the Republicans
    by asking for $2.00 and then settle for $1.00. Quinn will also be happy. Next dump the Ethanol subsidy and add to the gas tax. No snark

  32. - mokenavince - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:46 pm:

    Tom Smith is right include junk food,soft drinks
    and those energy drinks. Makes sense to me.

  33. - Liz - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 1:46 pm:

    Increase the vice tax on cigarettes. Good. And while they are at it, legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, etc. We’ll be swimming in tax revenue.

  34. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    ==And while they are at it, legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, etc. We’ll be swimming in tax revenue. ==


  35. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 2:14 pm:

    You can decriminalize marijuana in the state, but you’d need help from the federales to tax it.

    Given the rabid, low-brain-wave tenor of discourse in Washington, I suspect it will take a GOP president in a Nixon-to-China moment for that to happen.

  36. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 2:22 pm:

    The legislature has to do something, because the revenues created by the tax increase are still inadequate to address the deficit.

    BTW, are cigars included in this tax increase? Hookah lounges? If not, they should be because it seems to me that aging boomer males are lighting up stogies in ever increasing numbers and if you multiply the number of boomers times 12 cigars a year, that could add up fast…the younsters go in droves to these smoke dens and puff up…why penalize the ciggie smpkers and no one else who enjoy other tobacco products?

    Fair is fair…

  37. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 2:23 pm:

    my typing stinks today, my bad…you get the point…

  38. - april - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 2:39 pm:

    THe tax on cigarettes in Chicago is $4.67 per pack. $2 for Cook; $.68 Chicago; then state and federal.

  39. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 3:42 pm:

    regarding gas tax, doesn’t that go up a lot when the price goes up, what is the increased revenue expectation for the State with the new prices, and can’t that go for highway work?

    When the prie of gas goes up, the state sales tax revenues go up (which go to the General Revenue Fund, not the Motor Fuel Tax fund). State and federal gas taxes are 19c and 18.4c per gallon, IIRC. So as the price of gas goes up, the GRF gets a little bump, but at some point the higher cost probably depresses sales, leaving the MFT flat. AAMOF, federal gas tax collections look similar to a flat line in real dollars over the last 10 years, while construction and maintenance costs keep going up. That is primarily why the federal Highway Trust Fund is broke and also why the Federal Transit Account of the HTF (which is partially funded by 3c of every gallon) is also flat.

    As far as giving the sales tax bump to highways or other transportation, there are far more pressing and underfunded needs in the state that are funded by GRF. I would expect more diversions from the MFT fund to activities like SoS, state police and other “peripheral” transportation needs allowable by state law, than diversions from the GRF to transportation, with the state’s current financial condition.

  40. - willy - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 4:38 pm:

    How many jobs will a cigarette tax increase? Video gaming will create 20,000 plus jobs and help 8,000 to 10,000 illinois businesses.

  41. - Charlie Wilson - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 4:40 pm:

    This is one way to go, but I thought we were trying to widen the base. Why not lower the age at which one can buy cigarettes.

  42. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 4:41 pm:

    –Video gaming will create 20,000 plus jobs and help 8,000 to 10,000 illinois businesses.–

    Where? It seemed to me most of the state was bowing out from video gaming.

  43. - piling on - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 5:02 pm:

    the only video gaming jobs so far have been for lobbyists.

  44. - Qeneseo Gent - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 6:44 pm:

    Add a buck a year starting 1 JUNE 2011! Raise it on ALL forms of the “REDMANS REVENGE.”

  45. - Kasich Walker, Jr.'s Consultant for Spiritual Fitness & Suffrage - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 7:07 pm:

    Put a 25% or more tax on health club memberships.

  46. - Park - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 7:13 pm:

    Am I the only one who is struck by all the suggestions on how to squeeze more money out of Illinois residents?? Really, just me? How about we cut spending and REDUCE some of these fees and taxes. Who says the Gov has a right to max the amount it can finesse away from us??

  47. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 7:53 pm:

    So we get some revenue now but later spend more treating lung cancer, emphysema, COPD etc.? It seems the cheaper fix in the long run is to ban it.

  48. - Kasich Walker, Jr.'s Consultant for Spiritual Fitness & Suffrage - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 8:39 pm:

    Cut spending on services received by Park.

  49. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Mar 15, 11 @ 9:03 pm:

    Anon 7:53.
    How about this? Ban smoking in a trade for allowing concealed carry.
    Everything should be fine.

  50. - John A Logan - Wednesday, Mar 16, 11 @ 7:46 am:

    Blago is really on a roll this morning on WLS. Accusing Cullerton and Madigan of “cutting backroom deals.”

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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