County gov't on verge of shutdown

February 28, 2008 8:34:39 PM PST
As of midnight Friday, Chicago and the rest of Cook County could be operating on essential services only. That's the deadline for the Cook County Board to reach a budget agreement.

But, by the heated tone of Thursday's negotiations, it is clear the commissioners and board president Todd Stroger are feeling the pressure.

The board was met for several hours Thursday night. They made no progress on a budget agreement and some commissioners are predicting they will continue to make no progress up until Friday night's deadline.

"In all likelihood this government is shutting down, and it is a very, very sad day," said Cmsr. John Daley, (D) Chicago.

And so it goes on. The Cook County Board has debated a budget for months, but with little more than 24 hours left before a government shutdown, the stalemate continues. Some commissioners say they see no end in sight.

"I am not going to become part of a shutdown of a government. It's unconscionable and unprofessional and just not acceptable," said Cmsr. Gregg Goslin, (R) Glenview.

The board met Thursday night without President Todd Stroger. They considered a proposal to cut 15 percent of county employees across the board. It would be one way to meet the estimated $226 million budget deficit without raising taxes. But the proposal failed by a vote of 12-5. President Stroger has proposed a sales tax increase but he lacks the votes to pass that plan as well. That led to a heated exchange Thursday afternoon.

Some commissioners are predicting doom.

"What I care about is that at 12:01 tomorrow there's an ambulance that will pass up the emergency room because there's no budget," said Cmsr. Peter Silvestri, (R) Chicago.

As commissioners went into session Thursday night, they heard from health care workers who urged them to come up with an agreement. Their plea, however, so far has gone unanswered.

"I implore and invite the president to be more flexible, to really open up his heart and his mind, and for him to show some leadership and start moving into the direction of sitting down those members than can really bring about the ninth vote that he needs," said Cmsr. Robert Maldonado, (D) Chicago.

If the government shuts down Friday night because of no agreement at the deadline, they would have to go to a judge at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning and request emergency action to keep the essential services going. That would include emergency health care, law enforcement, and the jail.

In the meantime, the board reconvenes Friday morning at 10 a.m., and the clock is ticking.


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