Board fails to override Stroger's veto

September 1, 2009 8:49:30 PM PDT
President Todd Stroger won a showdown on Tuesday at the Cook County board over a rollback of the sales tax increase.Opponents on the board fell short of overriding his veto of the rollback since one commissioner unexpectedly changed her vote at the meeting which was heated at times.

The vote was 13 to 4 - one shy of the 14 needed to defeat the veto.

Some areas in Cook County have some of the highest sales tax rates in the country since that 1 percent county sales tax increase went into effect in a little more than a year ago.

Some commissioners had hoped to roll back that increase by a half percent. That measure, however, failed by one vote.

Critics say now the high tax is hurting the county, sending shoppers elsewhere.

About a dime of every dollar Flossmoor residents spend at downtown businesses goes to pay sales tax. And some residents are upset that it was their county commissioner, Deborah Sims, who switched her vote defeating the move by the majority of commissioners to lower the tax rate.

"This is unacceptable for the county, for the voters, for the people here," said Geofrey Lewis, Flossmoor resident.

In July, Sims voted to lower the tax but on Tuesday reversed course, voting to keep the tax along with commissioners Jerry Butler, William beavers and Joseph Mario Moreno.

"I gave him my word in the beginning. If anybody should have been mad at me, it should have been the president," said Comm. Deborah Sims, (D) South Suburbs.

"Instead of being loyal to Todd Stroger, I think she should be loyal to the voters and the taxpayers of Cook County," said Ray Hanania, radio host.

Opponents say the high sales tax is hurting Cook County businesses, driving shoppers to other counties.

"Very disappointing, especially during these difficult times. The people that are paying the most taxes are the people in the impoverished areas of Chicago," said Jerry Roper, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

Board president Todd Stroger argued lowering the tax rate would force the county to close hospitals and health clinics.

"Those who have been told health care services won't be cut and clinics won't close are not looking at the truth," said Todd Stroger.

Dorothy Brown who is running for Stroger's job disagrees.

"I don't think we should be balancing our budget on the backs of the taxpayers. Yes, we need to have a balanced budget, but we need new ideas, not new taxes," said Brown.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce cites a study from DePaul University that shows the high sales tax rates in Cook County are driving consumers to the collar counties.

President Stroger's representatives meantime are calling the vote a victory for the county's healthcare system.


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