When politicians pick winners and losers

Editor’s note: Chicago mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia recently proposed expanding the sales tax on “luxury” items in the city, including boats. Chicago boat dealer Lou Sandoval responds to that proposal.

As someone who was raised on the Southside by working class parents, I never imagined I would be where I am today–living the dream and owning my own business. I have had the pleasure of meeting many people from all walks of life in my line of business–owning a boat dealership.

My customers range from teachers and civil servants to CEOs. The one thing that unites them is their love for the water and boating.

Growing up I was always taught to do the right thing, give back and educate myself. With the love of my parents and many mentors along the way, I did that.  I grew up in a rough neighborhood; I stayed out of trouble by playing sports and participating in Scouting. Those foundational basics exposed me to sailing at a young age.   After a career in the biomedical industry, I pursued my dream and purchased a boat dealership.

I find it extremely disturbing that the populism used in today’s politics picks winners and losers and pits people who have applied themselves and succeeded against those who have not.

Commissioner Garcia’s recently announced plan to tax boating and other luxury items is the classic example of populism gone wrong. What is missing from Commissioner Garcia’s realm of understanding is that boating is a middle class past time, the harbor fees boaters pay support on-land park programs in Chicago and the revenue visiting boaters pay supplements sales tax revenue in our city.

Some of the facts that Commissioner Garcia fails to see is that three out of four boaters make less than $100,000/year. They are not RICH boaters like the good commissioner or his mentor the late Harold Washington would like to have you think.

They also have choices-The choice to move their boat to Hammond, Waukegan or across the lake to Michigan or even better- just give boating up all-together. All those decisions have short-term and long-term implications to the harbor system and the on land parks in many of our Chicago neighborhoods.

In 1985, the last time boating was targeted, by Mayor Washington, the perceived revenue stream that the good mayor wanted to exploit disappeared. The Chicago Harbor system saw decrease of 20 percent in slip holders and a 30 percent decrease in revenue. It took years for the industry to recover.

Some things are different this time around; it’s called the great recession. Like any other industry, the boating industry has fought to come back from a decrease in sales. The Chicago harbor system has a vacancy rate of close to 25 percent. There is one complete harbor that is 75 percent empty. As the largest municipally owned harbor system in the nation, this would result in huge consequences should Commissioner Garcia get elected and pursue his policy of taxing boats.

Many of the employees in the marine industry are middle class families themselves, so the hit comes twice.  Once in the form of employment, the second in city services to the communities in which they live: Brighton Park, Little Village , Pilsen and yes, Ravenswood.

It seems like this issue surfaces every time the municipal beast need to eat.   We need to remember that to each action, there is a reaction. Industries need not be singled out by policy makers as often the anticipated effect is elusive. I’m not a politician, nor am I policy maker- I’m a business owner who has sacrificed to get where he is today and ultimately I am responsible to my employees and their families.

I know this thing for sure; politicians should stay out of picking winners and losers. It kills jobs.

Lou Sandoval is the owner and co-founder of Karma Yacht Sales, LLC, a Chicago-based boat dealer serving a five state area based in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.

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  1. If you need further evidence of what happens when you tax FAT CAT boaters, just look at what happened to the Connecticut Marine industry after Bill Clinton demogogued it in the 90’s. It decimated it. Most of the industry that survived packed up and moved to Rhode Island.

    I have a couple of novel ideas for these poor politicians that are having trouble making their budgets —

    LAY SOMEONE OFF!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I agree with Lou. Enough of the politicians trying to kill boating with unnecessary taxes. Few if any politicians understand the amount of money that boating brings into the local economy as well as creating jobs from brokers to techs and even marina and yard workers. Every boat owner supports at least a few other jobs be it a marina or techs who work on boats. Most all of these jobs are well above the average pay scales you’d find in any other industry.

    Why don’t the politicians try getting some of the high school kids that have little chance of going to college because of their economic background into job training programs in the marine industry? Why is it always “Let’s tax the guy with the yacht because he can afford it?”

    Just look to the state of Florida that capped their sales tax on boat purchases at $18K and see how much MORE income the state made by easing the sales tax on boat purchases. All the extra income has been a boom to the state and everyone in the industry that it supports. At least for Florida!

  3. Thank you Lou your comments, they are thoughtful and right on target. For far too long boaters have been the target of liberals who wish to tax us to death. First Jimmy Cater wanted to ban boating on weekends to save fuel, Oh yeah that didn’t work because the premise was all wrong on and on the stories of the marine industry taking on the chin for political reasons only.

    It’s time for industry and our customers to stand up and shout we won’t take it anymore, you’re all fired next election.

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