I have an idea. If you like my idea, cut out this column and mail it to the mayor and to your alderman. Here’s my idea. How about a tax cut?
Yes. In the midst of Mayor Daley threatening the largest real estate tax increase in history as well as a 10-cent-per-bottle tax on water and with County Board President Stroger threatening a huge tax increase, we should have a tax cut. Let me explain.
We are getting ready to go into the biggest shopping season of the year. Christmas! So rather than people running out to Woodfield Mall, Winston Plaza or North Riverside Mall and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars there, Chicago should cut our sales tax rate to 5 percent and bring all the suburban shoppers into the city-as well as keeping city tax dollars here!
Yes, in an era of everyone fleeing the city to shop in the suburbs, we should fight back and lure the shoppers here. All the suburbs may have their malls, but Chicago has a Downtown. And Downtown at Christmas is the place everyone in Chicagoland should be. In today’s economy, we can lure all the big-ticket shoppers to find what they want in the suburbs, but come into the city to buy it.
Imagine the sight of the Metra stations and CTA stations bustling with families all weekend long coming into the city to shop for Christmas. We can also lower the parking rates so everyone will want to drive into the city and spend, spend, spend. Unlike suburban malls with their typical food courts, Chicago offers a plethora of restaurants for people to eat at. We also have smaller stores, museums and attractions for people all over northern Illinois to come to Chicago to spend their money.
We don’t have a problem in the summer luring millions of suburban people to the lakefront for the Air and Water Show, paid for by Chicago taxpayers. Or millions more down to Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago, again underwritten by Chicago taxpayers. Yet during the busiest shopping season of the year, the city has responded by doing little to be competitive in getting every tax dollar that is going to be spent at Christmas into our tax coffers!
We have Michigan Avenue. It is home to some of the ritziest stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale and lots of smaller boutiques and shops. Why we can even get people to come to the West Side and shop at the only Wal-Mart in the entire city of Chicago. In today’s economy, where every cent counts more than ever, we need tax dollars that are going to be spent here in the city. So if Chicago normally would get $10 million in taxes at Christmas based on sales taxes of 9 percent and we quadrupled the people coming to the city to shop, we would still double our tax intake to $20 million while making the registers at Chicago area businesses ring with the joy of sales for Christmas. The other residual effect would be the hiring of Chicagoans to work and meet the demands of all the folks who came here to shop.
Now this is just my idea. And it may or may not work. But the ideas coming out of City Hall are not about doing something to help bring more tax dollars into the city from other sources but rather how to increase the current taxes from the same source. We need to see some creativity coming out of City Hall-other than bans on foie gras. And if Chicago needs more revenue, we want City Hall to find ways to bring more people here to spend rather than making the people already here spend more.