Chicago to Have Highest U.S. Sales Tax; Enrolled Bill Shenanigans

March 2, 2008

Early Saturday, the Cook County Board voted 9-8 to raise their sales tax by a percentage point, to 10.25 percent, making it the highest in the country. The tax increase, which is estimated to raise an additional $426 million per year and will close a budget deficit and fund 1,100 new (patronage?) government jobs, goes into effect in November.

Board President Todd Stroger had wanted a 12 or 11.25 percent rate but came up a vote shy, and is now seeking an increase in other local taxes; in return for relenting on the sales tax, he agreed to give up total control over jobs at county hospitals (the new board will only be 9/20ths controlled by him). Opponents say the county is mismanaging the $3 billion in revenue it already collects.

Interestingly, the official record will say that Cook County’s budget was passed at 11:55 PM on Friday night, not early Saturday morning at about 1AM when it actually was. That’s because officials stopped the clock used for timekeeping as their way of complying with a law requiring them to pass the budget by midnight. Politicians get away with these shenanigans because of what’s called the “enrolled bill rule“—essentially, judges who enforce such deadlines are obligated to accept the time stated in the record prepared by government officials, no matter how much evidence may prove it to be false. The application of the rule in such situations usually deprives the taxpayer protection of all effectiveness.

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A tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities.