Alcohol tax hike, fewer layoffs likely for Cook Co.

November 18, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The Cook County Board was meeting all day Friday on the budget and the vote was expected Friday evening.

Unlike the City of Chicago, where aldermen meet in smaller committees to hammer out details of their budget, the Cook County Board meets as a committee of the whole to amend President Toni Preckwinkle's budget proposal.

Friday's final budget meeting was true to form; it took the 17 county commissioners seven hours to debate 64 amendments before the document was passed out of committee. Friday evening, they were beginning a series of speeches before voting on the $2.9 billion spending plan. It is expected to pass by an overwhelming margin.

Preckwinkle, negotiating her first budget, reduced the number of layoffs needed as part of her budget balancing act to fewer than half the 1,000 layoffs she suggested several weeks ago.

"Our negotiations with our labor unions and our negotiations with various members of the boards of commissioners have substantially reduced the potential layoffs, but I think we're still around a little more than 400," said Preckwinkle.

The 2012 county budget will include higher taxes on alcoholic beverages, set to begin on January 1st. A tax change on loose tobacco, including cigars, is scheduled to begin on March 1st of 2012.

The proposed $2.9 billion county budget for 2012 is about $500,000 less than the county budget was about five years ago, so spending has certainly decreased in Cook County and will continue to decrease next year.

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