Dems spar over sales tax hike during debate

January 8, 2010 2:47:49 PM PST
The controversial sales tax hike triggered a lively discussion during Thursday night's debate between the Democratic candidates for Cook County board president at ABC7.The challengers vowed to kill the entire increase, while President Todd Stroger defended the tax

On the Internet and cable last night and taped for broadcast television this weekend, the program has or will be seen on three different ABC7 media platforms.

Watch the Cook Co. Board Pres. Candidates Debate Part I
Watch the Cook Co. Board Pres. Candidates Debate Part II
Watch the Cook Co. Board Pres. Candidates Debate Part III

Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Cook County and the Better Government Association, it is already the most widely-viewed debate between the four contenders for county board president.

The candidates arrived well-prepared, aware that a much larger than usual audience awaited that would pay closer attention to them only 26 days before the election.

"I brought in $260 million new dollars in revenue without raising taxes," said Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown.

"In very tough economic times in 2008, we refunded $56 million back to the taxpayers of this region," said Terrence O'Brien, president of the Water Reclamation Board.

"The Civic Federation says it costs $20,000 a year to keep somebody in jail. We need to look at alternate sentencing and diversion programs to save money, and to focus resources on the violence," said Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward.

"I've eliminated 2,700 positions in the county in the three years I've been there," said Todd Stroger, Cook County Board president.

The four campaigns negotiated the format beforehand and decided the candidates would only answer questions and not respond to or comment on another candidate's answers during the debate.

"I'm gonna create a Cook County Small Business Administration office that will be a direct liaison to the national Small Business Administration office, to help people that want to start and maintain small businesses," said Brown.

"There has to be an evaluation done of all the operations--including the president's office-- within county government. And we will perform those audits to make sure that the taxpayers are getting the best bang for their tax dollars," said O'Brien.

A central question focused on whether to rollback the remaining half cent increase in the county sales tax.

"I believe in new ideas, not new taxes," said Brown.

"People are fed with tax and spend," said O'Brien.

"We have the highest sales taxes in the country. I think that's devastating for working families," said Preckwinkle.

"We still need the money to keep our business running," said Stroger.

After the half-hour program, the candidates held separate news conferences. President Stroger attacked Clerk Brown's sales tax rollback plan alleging she would replace lost revenues with new fees.

"You listen to the clerk, she'll admit she's raised the fees. She's raised fees as high as you can get," said Stroger.

Then Preckwinkle attacked O'Brien's record on the environment citing the water reclamation boss's part-ownership of an engineering consulting firm called K-Plus.

"K-Plus represents some of the biggest polluters in the State," said Preckwinkle.

There are several more debates or at least joint appearances by the candidates between now and February 2nd. But none that we know of are scheduled to be seen on as many different platforms as the ABC7 program.