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Preckwinkle, Business Leaders Celebrate End Of '08 Sales Tax Hike

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's not very often that we hear about taxes going down, but on Wednesday, retailers and elected officials were celebrating the final roll-back of Cook County's sales tax increase pushed through by former County Board President Todd Stroger in 2008.

WBBM Newsradio's Mike Krauser reports the Abt Electronics store in Glenview was among the thousands of Cook County businesses that stand to gain, especially with its proximity to Lake County, and its now only slightly lower taxes.

"It makes a huge difference," said company president Michael Abt. "It's very significant."

Stroger Sales Tax Eliminated

He said the real competition for brick-and-mortar stores is the Internet.

"You know, where there's no tax from out-of-state," he said.

Even so, for businesses, the elimination of the sales tax hike is cause for celebration.

"Our consumers vote with their feet every day," said Tanya Triche, vice president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. "Cook County is lowering taxes, and that's a major thing to say in this kind of economy."

Jerry Roper, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce said the final rollback of the Stroger sales tax hike would mean $87 million in annual tax savings for Cook County consumers.

Cook County commissioners slashed the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike in half in 2009, with the 2010 elections approaching. When Toni Preckwinkle, a Chicago alderman at the time, ran against Stroger, she promised to phase out the rest of the tax hike, and cut a deal with commissioners after taking office.

Preckwinkle said the overall savings from rolling back the sales tax is $440 million.

"I don't think a one percent decrease in the sales tax is symbolic, it's significant. It surely is significant loss in revenue in the county, and that means a significant gain for our businesses and working families," she said.

Preckwinkle said losing all that tax revenue has forced the county to get creative in balancing its budget, and to cut a number of costs.

"It's difficult to fix complicated problems, and it's sometimes very tempting just to raise taxes," she said.

The so-called "Stroger Sales Tax" increased Chicago's combined sales taxes to 10.25 percent in 2008. That rate has now dropped to 9.25 percent, putting Chicago in second place behind Phoenix for sales tax rates among the 10 largest cities in the U.S.

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