Andrew Chesney


Andrew Chesney


The Democrats’ Grocery Tax Sham

Session has ended and legislators are back in their home districts until the Fall Veto Session. On the heels of passing a record-high $53 billion budget that includes nearly $1 billion in tax hikes, there is no doubt that Democrats will spend this time patting themselves on the back and bragging about the new entitlement programs and pork they are bringing into their districts and the continuation of Cadillac-style services they are providing to migrants and illegal immigrants.

Illinoisans should also be prepared for the Democrats to boast about providing tax relief to Illinoisans by eliminating the state’s 1% sales tax on groceries. This is a sham. A hoax. It’s a complete smoke and mirrors show meant to provide press pops and sound bites for majority party legislators who want to project some semblance of concern for taxpayers. Don’t fall for it. What they call a tax cut will actually be a tax increase.

When the Governor announced his plan to eliminate the grocery tax, Senate Republicans were thrilled. We have been pushing for the elimination of this regressive tax for years. Most recently, I was a Chief Co-Sponsor of Senate Bill 3725.

First, it is important to note that 100% of the funds generated from the grocery tax are sent to municipalities to help balance local budgets, so eliminating it would not affect the state’s budget. However, it would burden our cities and villages, which rely on those funds to help pay for police and fire protection, public works projects, and other local government operations. The Senate Republican plan would have eliminated the grocery tax and backfilled the lost funds with existing State dollars. It would have kept our cities and towns whole and required a minuscule amount of fiscal restraint on the part of Governor Pritzker. He didn’t want to do that. SB 3725 was blocked from consideration.

The Pritzker plan for “fake grocery tax relief” (House Bill 3144) reassigns the responsibility for this tax to local governments. The Governor and his allies can proclaim they eliminated the tax when all they did was force mayors, village presidents, and their councils statewide into a position where they either have to cut services or raise taxes locally. Unfortunately, the Pritzker bill was brought before lawmakers, and that is the bill that passed. As of January 1, 2026, the state’s 1% tax on groceries will be eliminated, and municipalities will either have to assume responsibility for the tax or do without the revenue. Unfortunately, the bill gets much worse.

Through HB 3144, your voice as a taxpayer has been stripped away. Generally, in communities with a population of less than 25,000, there is a requirement that municipal boards go directly to voters if they want to increase or impose a tax and they have to do this by Voter Referendum. This bill also allows municipalities to levy a “General Sales Tax” without voter approval. This bill eliminates a referendum requirement and voters’ ability to have a direct say in local taxation in their community. As the State of Illinois continues to put more pressure on local units of government, it all but guarantees higher taxes at the local level, which will be much easier to accomplish with the elimination of the voter referendum.

In addition to the grocery tax sham, this legislation increases taxes in other ways. It increases 911 fees and provides a new hotel tax hike for certain parts of the state.

Governor Pritzker and his allies in the General Assembly had an opportunity to eliminate a regressive tax and keep municipalities whole. Instead, they played political games, silenced voters’ voices on local taxation issues, raised 911 and hotel taxes, and called it a “win.” Only in Illinois!

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