Board fails to override rollback veto

Commissioners approve new tax plan
May 19, 2009 (CHICAGO) ABC7 political reporter Charles Thomas says Commissioner Joseph Moreno switched sides at the last minute, which in effect, killed the repeal of the 1-percent sales tax and stopped commissioners from overriding Stroger's veto.

Eleven commissioners voted to override the veto while four others supported President Stroger. Two commissioners voted present.

It takes an 80 percent majority or 14 of the 17 Cook County commissioners to override a veto. County board president Todd Stroger leaned hard on that rule on Tuesday to maintain the one penny increase in the Cook sales tax.

Before President Stroger began the meeting, he knew he had the four votes he needed to sustain his veto. There would be no repeal of the county's 1 cent increase in the sales tax because Stroger says the money is desperately needed to run the public health system.

"We can't speak three years in the future. Hopefully things get better. I sure hope so. But I can't say with full confidence right now that I know that's going to happen. So we have to deal with what have," said Todd Stroger, (D) Cook County board president.

Eleven commissioners - Democrats as well as Republicans - opposed the president and supported the full 1 penny rollback and more cuts in the county's budget.

"We have to adjust ourselves like other people have with their budgets. Families have adjusted their budgets," said Commissioner John Daley, (D) Chicago.

"It's not about the opposition to this president just to be in opposition to him," said Commissioner Tony Peraica, (R) Riverside.

But Stroger supporters who rallied outside the chambers before the meeting called the tax repeal effort not only a political attack on the president but also on poor people.

"The underserved are standing strongly behind the president of Cook County," said Rev. Walter Turner.

Minutes after the veto was upheld the board voted 10-7 for a new ordinance to reduce the sales tax by a penny over a two year period.

"Repeal it three quarters of a percent and then phase it out in the second year with a quarter," said Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, (R) Orland Park.

But the president who supports only a one quarter of a cent reduction next year says he'll also veto the repeal bill passed on Tuesday. When asked if he's saying if it's 'his way or the highway' he said,"I am saying somebody has to be a leader. It's either lead, follow or get out of the way."

Stroger has recently been under the spotlight for his own income tax problems. He owes $12,000 in back taxes.

A group of activists and ministers were the county building before the 10 a.m. meeting in support of Stroger. They agree with him, saying a 1-percent rollback in the sales tax would devastate county health care clinics and shut down two county-run hospitals

"The commissioners are in danger of getting rid of public service, public safety, and health care. We're looking at closing all of our clinics," said Mark Allen, community activist.

Charles has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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