New Cook Co. budget with alcohol tax hike approved

November 18, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The budget upholds a pledge by board president Toni Preckwinkle to eliminate a previous sales tax increase.

16 of the 17 commissioners backed the budget. Chicago Democrat Bill Beavers dissented.

Taxes will rise on alcohol, cigars, and loose tobacco. The county's tax on purchases of new cars and boats also increases.

County courthouses will impose a new $4.75 daily parking fee, but it will be waived for jurors, early voters, witnesses, and law officers.

The Cook County Board met all day Friday on the budget. 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 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.

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 $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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