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Chicago, IL – It’s been a busy five months for Commissioner Sean Morrison since taking office on July 22. The Cook County Board of Commissioners closed out the 2015 calendar year with the passage of three important reform-minded initiatives at their recent December 16 board meeting.
Commissioner Morrison brought with him to the board an extensive business background and made fiscal responsibility and innovative reform key pillars of his agenda. He also made it a top priority to meet with every Cook County department, agency and county elected official to learn the fiscal scope and operational structure of every area of county government.
“Having worked closely with the administration over the last several months, I’m very pleased to see these three initiatives passed and look forward to their implementation as it will move Cook County government in the right direction of reform, efficiency and consolidation,” remarked Commissioner Morrison.
The board approved the $2.3 million purchase of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to facilitate communications between the different software applications used by each of the County’s justice agencies: Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff, State’s Attorney and the Cook County Bureau of Technology, which operates under the Office of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The Bureau of Technology was given approval by the Board for the implementation of ESB software and hardware, as well as development and managed services for data exchanges among County criminal justice agencies.
As Vice Chair of the Technology & Innovation Committee, Commissioner Morrison sees consolidation and modernization of IT services as critical to raising efficiencies and cutting long-term costs for county government. And, he sees the ESB as a significant step which will improve communications and data exchanges between multiple county agencies while providing significant cost savings.
A new ordinance approved by the county board will require businesses that store hazardous chemicals such as acids, solvents and other highly toxic chemicals to report the type of substance in the facility, the location of the chemicals and how the chemicals are stored. This information will provide a measure of safety for nearby residents and first responders. The information collected will be kept by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and will be available to first responders.
Upon its approval, Commissioner Morrison said, “This ordinance is a very important public safety issue for our communities and our first responders who many times walk into an unknown location which presents a very dangerous and life-threatening situation as we saw recently with the tragic loss of Chicago Firefighter Daniel Capuano.”
The third item approved at the December board meeting involves the county reducing and streamlining its vehicle fleet operations and creating a more efficient system of vehicle purchase, use and maintenance that will save taxpayers money. President Preckwinkle’s administration will now partner with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on vehicle maintenance with a more efficient system to save money and promote use of ‘green’ vehicles. The Sheriff’s Office will now maintain and service all county passenger vehicles.
The three reform initiatives passed in December come on the heels of the November 18 passage of the FY2016 Cook County Budget which included four new taxes which was in addition to the 1% Sales Tax increase passed in mid-July just prior to Commissioner Morrison’s appointment to the board.
After several weeks of budget hearings and negotiations, the FY2016 Budget was passed but with significant opposition. “It was my goal to see the county budget passed without any new taxes but unfortunately that was not the case. That’s why I could not support it. Those targeted businesses will now face an additional financial burden which in my view is not beneficial to the long term health of our county’s economy,” Morrison concluded.
According to Morrison, raising taxes can no longer be the primary remedy to addressing fiscal matters because creating new tax revenue streams inevitably leads to new spending. He believes the path to fiscal stability needs to be built squarely around strong fiscal reform policies across all areas of Cook County government along with fostering a positive economic environment where businesses can thrive.
As 2016 arrives, Commissioner Morrison is looking forward to working with his county board colleagues, President Preckwinkle and her administration to continue to create new and innovative reforms and establish more quantifiable measures to move Cook County government in the right fiscal direction.
On Wednesday, November 18, the Cook County Board passed its FY2016 Budget which included four new taxes: 1) Hotel Tax, 2) Ammunition Tax, 3) E-Cigarette & E-Liquid Tax, and 4) Ticket Re-Sellers Tax. Unfortunately, all four taxes were passed as part of the FY2016 Budget placing a greater financial burden on the businesses of these four industries and Cook County taxpayers.
I want to thank the many concerned residents and businesses for their numerous correspondences during the six-week budget process. Your voices did not go unheard. I voted “No” on all four tax proposals as well as the FY2016 Budget because I fundamentally disagree with the continuous creation of new taxes which I believe will negatively impact our local economy and taxpayers. As a small business owner, I know firsthand the taxation pressures placed upon businesses in Cook County and the negative impact it can have on residents.
Moreover, these new taxes will have a direct impact on the suburban 17th District in particular as the district shares nearly 40 miles of border with DuPage and Will counties. These new taxes are on top of the 1% sales tax increase passed just four months ago. We know from experience that these new taxes will put businesses in the 17th District at an economic disadvantage against neighboring businesses just a short drive across the county line.
Raising taxes can no longer be the primary remedy to addressing fiscal matters because creating new revenue streams inevitably leads to new spending. Our path to fiscal stability needs to be built squarely around strong fiscal reform policies across all areas of Cook County government along with fostering a positive economic environment where businesses can thrive.
I look forward to working with my county board colleagues and President Preckwinkle’s administration to create new and innovative reforms and establish more quantifiable measures to continue to move Cook County government in the right fiscal direction.
Sean M. Morrison
Cook County Commissioner
Cook County Chronicle – Benjamin Reyes, owner of an e-cigarette store in Des Plaines, said he would close up shop and head north if the county follows through on a proposed tax on the products he sells.
“I’m leaving. This goes through, I’m gone,” said the owner of Colossal Vape. “… I’m prepared to leave Cook County. I’ll move from Cook County too. I don’t want to be in a county that does this to its residents, its businesses.”
He said a $25 bottle of e-cigarette juice would carry a $24 tax on it, if the county tax goes through as planned.
“It’s insane. It’s insane. That’s a 96 percent tax,” Reyes said.
Reyes said he would set up shop in Lake County to avoid the Cook County tax. Other vapor storeowners say they will follow suit and move outside of the county should the tax go through at this week’s County Board meeting.
Commissioner Tim Schneider noted that the county collected $100,000 less in cigarette tax revenue last year than it did in 2004 despite the county instituting $1 tax hikes in 2004, 2006 and 2013.
“That is not because of people’s cessation of smoking,” Schneider said. “It is because people are leaving the county to get their goods and services outside of Cook County. “
He also believes the county may be off base in taxing e-cigarettes in an effort to get users to quit. Schneider noted that 15 people in his life have come to him in the last two weeks and told him that vaping helped them quit smoking.
At Friday’s Finance Committee meeting, commissioners approved the e-cigarette tax by a 12-2 vote.
Commissioners voting for the tax were: Luis Arroyo Jr., Richard Boykin, Jerry Butler, John Daley, Bridget Gainer, Jesus Garcia, Gregg Goslin, Stanley Moore, Pete Silvestri, Deborah Sims, Larry Suffredin and Jeff Tobolski.
Voting against the tax were Commissioners Sean Morrison and Tim Schneider.
Commissioners Joan Murphy and Richard Steele were absent for the vote.
Commissioner John Fritchey voted present.
The board was also divided on instituting a 1 percent tax on hotel and motel rooms in the county. In a 10-6 vote, commissioners recommended advancing the proposed legislation to the County Board.
Mark Gordon, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel Lodging Association, said County Board president Toni Preckwinkle failed to live up to her promise regarding a hotel/motel tax.
“We are very disappointed with Cook County for considering a hotel tax, especially after President Preckwinkle assured us in June that there would be no hotel tax if she got the entire 1 percent sales tax increase,” Gordon said.
He noted that in 2016 hotel guests in Chicago will be paying an 11.5 percent tax on purchases, a 28 percent tax when they park and a 17.4 percent tax on hotel rooms.
“How much longer can we expect tourists and conventions to keep coming to Chicago?” Gordon asked.
He said if the county institutes its 1 percent tax, Chicago would have the fourth highest hotel tax in the country, only one-quarter percent from the top. He noted Las Vegas and Orlando, which are competitors with Chicago for convention business, have hotel taxes of 12 and 12.5 percent, respectively.
Commissioners supporting the county hotel tax were: Luis Arroyo, Richard Boykin, Jerry Butler, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Greg Goslin, John Daley, Stanley Moore, Joan Murphy, Deborah Sims, and Jeff Tobolski
Voting against the tax were commissioners John Fritchey, Bridget Gainer, Sean Morrison, Tim Schneider, Pete Silvestri and Larry Suffredin.
Commissioner Robert Steele was absent.
Chicago, IL – The Cook County Board of Commissioners passed four new taxes today that gives the county another $17.8 million in new tax revenue. The new taxes are: Hotel Tax, Ticket Resellers/Brokers Tax, E-Cigarette & E-Vapor Tax, and a Firearm Ammunition Tax.
Commissioner Morrison viewed today’s votes as an example of the county board taking the expedient way out and closing the budget gap of $22.5 million on the backs of Cook County businesses and taxpayers.
“The disconnect between the county board and the business community is staggering. How many times can you keep sucking money out of the private sector to feed big government? These new taxes bring permanent revenue streams which inevitably mean more spending.” said Morrison.
Members of each business community hit by the new taxes were unanimous in their testimonies that the repercussions will be negatively felt through a loss of revenue and the loss of jobs to their respective industries. A fellow commissioner pointed out that it was hypocritical of this county board to ask for a 1% tax increase on hotels but refuse to cut an additional 1% from our own budget.
Commissioner Morrison who represents the suburban 17th District which runs over 40 miles along the Cook County border said it was going to hit businesses in his district especially hard as their competitors just across the county line have the advantage of lower tax rates to draw customers away from Cook County.
Chicago, IL – Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison has submitted an amendment today to close the $22.5 million budget gap faced by Cook County in its FY2016 budget. The proposed amendment will allow for $22,500,000 of discretionary revenue to be allocated to cover the shortfall in the proposed FY2016 Cook County budget.
Commissioner Morrison’s amendment comes in response to four newly proposed taxes which are intended to provide even more taxpayer dollars to the county beyond the recent 1% sales tax increase. The four newly proposed taxes are: Hotel Tax, Ticket Resellers/Brokers Tax, E-Cigarette & E-Vapor Tax, and a Firearm Ammunition Tax.
“I’m unequivocally opposed to all four taxes. My amendment would fund nearly one quarter of a billion dollars in an additional payment to the county pension fund and we would not have to burden the citizens and businesses of Cook County with more taxes which would be in addition to the unpopular sales tax increase passed just four months ago,” stated Morrison.
Commissioner Morrison has submitted his proposal to amend Item #15-6279 (before the Finance Committee tomorrow Friday, November 13th) which is the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement (“IGA”) with the Cook County Pension Fund for FY2016 that would authorize the county’s Chief Financial Officer to disburse $248,026,000 instead of a suggested $270,526,000 in additional discretionary funds to the pension fund. This additional payment would be on top of Cook County’s Actual/Statutory Contribution of $195M.
The discretionary revenue allocated in the proposed IGA will come from the $310 million projected to be generated and collected from the 1% sales tax increase passed in July. “It’s imperative that we operate within the budget and revenue we have and that’s why I believe it makes good fiscal sense to utilize $22.5 million of discretionary funds to close the budget hole instead of adding four more taxes onto the county rolls,” concluded Morrison.
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