Strip club "pole tax" falls short of goal

2014-04-16T00:00:00Z Strip club "pole tax" falls short of goalKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
April 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | A new tax on Illinois strip clubs generated significantly less money than what supporters hoped it would raise in its first year.

According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, the so-called "pole tax" raised about $380,000 in 2013 to help fund rape crisis centers in the state.

That amount falls far short of the $1 million backers said the new tax would bring in when they pushed it through the General Assembly in 2012.

Under the law, strip club operators pay a surcharge to the state based on their size and revenue. Operators also can opt to pay a flat $3 surcharge for each patron.

Revenue spokeswoman Sue Hofer said 37 companies paid into the fund, meaning each club paid an average of about $10,000 toward the tax last year.

If each establishment had taken the $3 per patron option, that would amount to about 10 customers per day for a club that stays open seven days a week.

Like individual tax returns, Hofer said the identity of the facilities paying into the tax are confidential.

The Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Fund, which was championed by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, was created as a way to offset declining state support for rape crisis centers.

Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the amount may be less than what was expected because the law only affects establishments that sell or allow alcohol. Chicago bans alcohol at its strip clubs.

But, Poskin added, "We're very grateful for the amount we're getting."

In a prepared statement, Hutchinson said she remains "vigilant" in her efforts to find ways to support services for battered women.

"Every one of those dollars represents needed funding for rape crisis centers," Hutchinson said.

Michael Ocello, president of the Illinois Club Owners Association, urged the Department of Revenue to make sure all clubs were paying the tax. He said the club owners didn't support the added tax, but believe in the issue it is trying to address.

"We take the issue seriously," Ocello said.

Illinois Department of Human Services spokeswoman Januari Smith said the agency expects to release the funds to the sexual assault coalition sometime after July 1.

An application process for the 29 centers eligible for the money is being developed, Smith added.

(Kurt Erickson can be reached at kurt.erickson@lee.net or 217-782-4043)

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