NTUI Releases Open Letter To President Jones And The Illinois Senate Calling For Opposition To County Cigarette Taxes

Honorable Senate President Emil Jones, Jr. and all Illinois Senators;

We urge you to oppose Senate Bill 716 and to let the bill expire this session without action.

Senate Bill 716 is a bad bill for taxpayers, small businesses, and state government revenues and should be opposed now and in any future versions.

Every county already has the opportunity to impose cigarette taxes and the current laws do not need to be changed regarding home rule authority. The power to grant home rule authority to counties currently rests with the voters and that power should not be taken by the General Assembly. Du Page and other counties’ voters have spoken at the ballot box numerous times against giving their county the power to tax cigarettes. Those votes must be honored.

Fiscally, this is a bad bill for state government revenues. State cigarette tax revenues are steadily declining. Through the first six months of FY 2007 state cigarette tax revenues are down $4.3 million from the same time period in FY 2006. FY 2006 state cigarette tax revenues were $120 million lower than FY 2004. Passing Senate Bill 716 will reduce state cigarette tax revenues even more.

Alongside cigarette tax revenues, cigarette sales across the state are declining. In 2006, 57.5 million fewer packs of cigarettes were sold in Cook County than the previous year. Those reduced sales harm small businesses and our economy even more than the state budget. Senate Bill 716 only places higher hurdles in front of small businesses when we should be knocking down hurdles in front of the American Dream.

Finally, tobacco consumers have been picked on more than enough in Illinois. Chicago has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, and Illinois should be looking to cap if not reduce cigarette taxes in the state. These taxes are regressive and hit families and the poor the hardest.

The General Assembly has nothing to gain by passing Senate Bill 716. Doing the counties’ dirty work for them will only present you with harder budget decisions going forward. If the counties want the home rule authority to tax cigarettes, let them go to the voters and ask for it, as they should. Please oppose Senate Bill 716.
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