By John Ruberry

“And it was inevitable that some of these people pushed back…”
Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles.

Overtaxed residents of Cook County, where Chicago is, are finally waking up. After decades of being slapped by tax after tax–folks are fighting back.

Last week the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted to repeal a hated penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax, one that until the repeal takes effect on December 1, places a 39 percent tax on a $4.88 12-pack of soda pop.

“The pop tax is dead, but the issue is bigger than the pop tax,” Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-Chicago) told the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass last week. “The issue here is that the people of Chicago and Cook County are not used to having their voices heard and making a difference, with public outrage forcing an elected body to reverse course. This is something.”

Cook County Board President Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle (D-Chicago) last year had to issue a rare tie-breaking vote last year to enact the soda tax, which took effect two months ago. Last week commissioners voted 15-2 to kill it.

Over the years Cook County imposed with little pushback a 0.75 percent sales tax, along with tobacco, gasoline, and liquor taxes, as well as an additional one-percent sales tax. Okay, there was a rebellion with that last one. Taxwinkle defeated her unpopular predecessor in a Democratic primary on the promise to repeal it–and she followed through. Then five years later she led the effort to successfully bring it back.

Chicagoans pay the nation’s highest sales tax rate.

Meanwhile Chicago residents have been pulverized by repeated property tax hikes to mainly pay for underfunded municipal worker pensions. Illinoisans just got socked with a 32 percent income tax increase, much of that money will go to pension obligations. And Taxwinkle has said that some of that soda tax money is needed for county worker pensions.

Taxwinkle dismissed criticism of the pop tax, which she ludicrously claimed was a public health measure, as the message of Big Soda. Yes, the American Beverage Association’s Can the Tax Coalition did pay for television, radio, and internet ads calling for a repeal. But Taxwkinkle enlisted the aid of “Nanny” Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, to pay for pro-soda tax ads. And after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association delayed imposition of the soda tax, Taxwinkle quickly sued the group for $17 million in lost revenue, exposing her “it’s for our kids’ health” argument as a lie.

Toni “Taxwinkle” Preckwinkle

No figures are available, but anecdotal evidence is abundant that Cook County residents in droves have been driving to collar counties and Indiana to purchase pop since collection of the soda tax began. And does anyone think they were only buying soda on these grocery runs? And gee whiz, do you think they noticed that gasoline, and well, a whole lot of other things are cheaper outside Crook County?

Fill ‘er up. Oh, grab a case of beer too! Oh, and buy that stuff as long as we are here. And this stuff too!

Democratic office holders–and not just county ones–heard the sharp message from ordinary citizens: get rid of this tax!

The repeal of the sugary drink tax repeal is a big victory for long suffering Cook County residents such as myself. Cook is heavily Democratic. Hillary Clinton won nearly three-quarters of the vote in last year’s presidential election. Cook County hasn’t had a Republican president of the Cook County Board in nearly five decades, which is when the county’s population peaked.

Yet people in one of America’s bluest counties screamed “Enough” and they pushed back.

But this victory is only partial. The soon-to-be-canned soda tax is only a symptom. Voters need to understand why Taxwinkle needs to spend so much. Pensions for unionized retirees are only part of it. Taxwinkle has been building a massive “free” public-health care network that caters to the jobless and Cook’s burgeoning illegal immigrant community since taking office seven years ago.

Chicago is a sanctuary city and Cook is a sanctuary county. And last month our state’s Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, signed a bill making Illinois a sanctuary state.

These may be the type of governments that Illinois voters want. If it is, then so be it. But prepare to pay dearly for it too.

John Ruberry, a fifth-generation Cook County resident, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

One year ago drivers in the United States in general got an unexpected gift from the laws of supply and demand.  The US fracking boom which has caused the US to become the #1 energy producer in the world forced a reaction by the Saudi’s that dropped the price of fuel in the US in general putting money in everyone’s pocket that they didn’t expect, not just for drivers but for everybody who buys a product delivered by a truck.

As I noted in a piece earlier this year on Watchdog rather than celebrate this drop the Obama administration and others have tried to reverse this trend

These new rules, along with taxes proposed in various states, have the potential to do what the Saudis have to this point been unable to do: curtail the energy boom that has been the engine of the recovery thus far.  As Investors Business Daily  wrote “This war-on-shale action mirrors the administration’s war on coal, with EPA rules impossible to meet economically and sometimes requiring technology that doesn’t even exist.”

And to be sure Gas prices have slowly started to increase again.  The station where I fill up dropped to $1.99 a gal at their low and was charging $2.53 as of my last fill-up.

ma-gas-price-chart 10 year
With a national election on the horizon and terror threats in the news many in the state might have forgotten the fight that prevented annual automatic gas tax hikes for going into effect.This price increase hasn’t caused an angry reaction most likely because those now paying an average of $2.71 were paying nearly a dollar gallon more a year ago. ma-gas-price-table But if you’re a Massachusetts consumer grateful about that .90 a gallon you’re not paying this year, make sure you remember a debt of gratitude you owe to a few other people.

In 2013 The Mass legislature passed a .03 increase in the State Gas tax and included with the flat increase indexing the tax to inflation meaning we would get a tax increase every single year without a vote by the legislature.  As I put it at the time:

We get one chance to stop the indexing of gas tax increases forever, just one because if this budget is passed with the indexed tax it will not only never be repealed but it will be used as a political tool for years to come

I could see a bunch of 81-79 votes for repeal with every pol in electoral trouble voting with that 79 &beating their breast over the failure to repeal the tax.

Luckily for the state some people didn’t take it sitting down Mass GOP chair Kristen Hughes stood out with Tea Party members in 2013 publicizing that gas tax indexing.

and former GOP Congressional Candidate Marty Lamb who derided the attempt to increase gas taxes “to infinity and beyond”.

They had an uphill fight.   They were opposed by the Boston Globe and the Governor Patrick who were very well-funded.  In fact the No on one committee raised 2.9 Million dollars and spent 2.6 Million to save the indexed gas tax while The Committee to Tank the Automatic Gas Tax managed to raise only $98K spending 3.7% of their opponents.

Instead of big names they relied on a group of hard working grass roots activists and it paid off.  Despite being outspent nearly 30-1, the opposition of the largest paper in the state and then Governor Deval Patrick the group managed an improbable 53-47 victory leading to Holly Robichaud and Tank the Gas Tax being awarded the “Ballot Measure Campaign of the Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants

But the real winners are the Massachusetts drivers and consumers who are not dealing with an extra tax increase on Gasoline every single year.  Each one of them owes Ms. Robichaud, Mr. Lamb, Ms. Hughes and all those activists who gave freely of their time to keep the government out of their pockets a debt of gratitude

After the repeal passed I gave a warning:

The folks at the statehouse will learn from that result and be smarter next time. They’ll make small gradual changes, and reach into your wallet more subtlety, not stealing over their weight or attracting attention.

Let’s hope that if they do there are people ready to take up the fight once more.  Big Government is never stopped by accident, it comes from hard work.

By Steve Eggleston

Thanks to the fracking boom (no thanks to President Obama and his eco-nuts on that) and the Saudis attempting to do to said boom what they did to the Soviets in the 1980s, the price of gasoline has plummeted. In fact, most of the stations in the Milwaukee area are charging less than $2 per gallon, a level I thought I would never see again.

However, the Political Class has deemed that gasoline is too low, and that government, in this case the federal government, needs more taxes, using the temporary situation of relatively-inexpensive gas as the pretext to push the gas and diesel taxes higher to “save” the United States Highway Trust Fund.

Notably, the push includes the three Republican Senators who have the chairs of the three committees that likely would have jurisdiction over such a move – Environment and Public Works Chair James Inhofe (R-OK), Finance Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Commerce, Science and Transportation Chair John Thune (R-SD). For their parts, Inhofe and Thune claim to not favor doing so, but that the option should be “on the table”. That is DC-speak for “let’s do it”.

Inhofe then destroyed his credibility on the issue by calling it a “user fee”. The fuel taxes haven’t been strictly a “user fee” since 1982, when a penny of the 5-cent increase to 9 cents per gallon was dedicated to mass transit, with another 0.1 cent dedicated to fuel tank clean-up. Mass transit’s share has since increased to 2.86 cents per gallon.

There already is a “bipartisan” proposal from Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) to jack up the taxes by 6 cents per year over the next 2 years, and then automatically raise them every year by indexing the taxes to inflation. The latter portion has been proven to be quite unpopular, with Massachusetts repealing by popular referendum its automatic indexing.

Simply removing mass transit and the tank from the fuel taxes won’t solve the Highway Fund’s problems, but it would be a start.

Yesterday I led with the Indexing of the Gas Tax that is included in this years budget bill.

It’s the worst of all possible taxes because it will automatically go up every single year without the necessity of a single vote by a member of our 82% Democrat legislature.

We get one chance to stop the indexing of gas tax increases forever, just one because if this budget is passed with the indexed tax it will not only never be repealed but it will be used as a political tool for years to come…by Democrats!

Here’s how it works: Lets say this bill passes and next year by some miracle voter anger in Massachusetts over the tax boils over to the point where people actually consider to voting members out of office who supported it.

Thanks to the outcry a vote to repeal comes to the floor and naturally all 32 GOP House members vote to get rid of this law.

That still leaves them 49 votes shy of a majority.

So what do Democrat party leaders do? They identify the members out of the remaining 128 who are actually in danger of losing seats knowing they can free a full 36% to vote for repeal. Suddenly 20, 30 even 40 democrats announce they’ve had a change of heart, they talk about how it was a bad idea and go on TV and radio promising to vote for repeal. They manage to get their totals all the way up to 47 democrats and the roll call vote takes place on the house with 47 democrats joining the 32 house republicans to junk this odious tax…

…and repeal fails 81-79.

But lets say somehow, by some miracle the voters are actually aroused the speaker, worried not only about his pending indictment (No democrat is allowed to be speaker of the Massachusetts House without a pending indictment) actually fears the GOP might have a 50-1 shot of getting to that magic 81 seats and wrest the gavel from the party for practically the first time in generations and decides to left enough of his members vote for repeal to actually clear the House…

…then it goes to the Senate where the numbers are even worse.

Of the 40 Senate Seats the GOP holds exactly 4. 4. That means the President of the Senate can allow 36 of the 76 members of the democrat caucus, nearly half, to vote in favor of repeal without fear of its passage.

And all of this presumes both sides are worried about a Governor who would actually sign a repeal. Even if both houses somehow decided it was politically necessary to vote to repeal Governor Patrick or the next Democrat to follow him will veto it, to “protect our roads and bridges”.

The worst part about it. This entire exercise can be repeated on an annual basis, with a few votes shifting here and there as different members find themselves in trouble in different years. They’ll be a whole crop of Democrats on TV, in Speeches, on the Radio and in the papers pointing to their repeal vote as proof they the care…a vote that will mean nothing.

And why will they do this? Because they will assume voters in Massachusetts foolish enough to re-elect them after they voted for the initial indexing of taxes will be foolish enough to believe such nonsense…

…And they’ll be right.

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