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Board votes to rollback tax

November 18, 2009 4:43:03 AM PST
The Cook County Board voted Tuesday to rollback the sales tax by half a percent. Board president Todd Stroger has vetoed previous attempts to reduce the tax. But this time may be different because the law has been changed.

With an assist from Springfield, the Cook County Board's fourth effort to rescind a one cent increase in the sales tax might stick this time. Five Republicans were joined by seven Democrats to form what appears to be a veto-proof majority.

"This has really become a battle of the have and have nots and there are more haves than have nots," said Todd Stroger, Cook Co. Board president.

Framed as class warfare by board president Todd Stroger, twelve of the seventeen Cook County commissioners voted to repeal one-half of the one penny sales tax increase. Suburban commissioners say the extra penny has hurt retail sales in their more affluent districts near the county's borders.

"We need to stop giving consumers reasons to shop outside Cook County and stop giving businesses excuses for opening secondary shops," said Commissioner Elizabeth Doody-Gorman, (R) Orland Park.

"I don't buy the doomsday scenario that county government will shut down without the sales tax," said Timothy Schneider, (R) Bartlett.

But that's exactly what pro-sales commissioners from the poorest district warned will happen if the county loses $180 million in revenue.

"We provide the services to those people who cannot afford to pay for those services," said Deborah Sims, (D) South Suburbs.

"I've never seen a penny mean so much to so many. It's been ridiculous around here about a penny," said Commissioner Jerry Butler, (D) Chicago.

President Stroger vetoed three previous rollback attempts saying the county's health system would suffer cuts during 2011 if the half cent is repealed.

"The level of health care that we offer now will be decreased with the rollback of the sales tax," said Stroger.

"It is $75 million...we have to cut additional jobs and we'll have to look at cutting services," said William Foley, Health System C.E.O.

The Illinois General Assembly last month passed a new law lowering from 14 to eleven the number of votes on the county board to override a veto by Stroger.

"They keep talking about Todd Stroger and his taxes. This board voted for these taxes. Not Todd Stroger. He doesn't have a vote in this board," said Commissioner William Beavers, (D) Chicago.

President Stroger promised to veto the repeal but would not when he would act.

The county board has a scheduled meeting Wednesday. If a veto does happen and the board does have the eleven to override, the tax would not be removed until July 1st, 2010. That's why the loss of the revenue would not have an effect until 2011.


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