Preckwinkle offers $5.9B balanced budget plan, denies mayoral run played a role

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One year after a budget battle that backfired over a soda tax, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has a new spending plan, and it's one that might be much easier for taxpayers to accept.

Preckwinkle has proposed a $5.9 billion budget for 2019, and she said it will be balanced, without raising taxes, fines or fees, and without layoffs.

"We're living within our means and being disciplined in spending," Preckwinkle said.

Her 2019 budget benefits from an unexpected increase in sales tax revenues and additional money expected to come in through the health care system. But her budget presentation sounded a bit like a political speech.

"My vision for a better Cook County hasn't come without challenges and difficulties, doing what is right and responsible isn't always easy and we've not shied away from tough decisions," Preckwinkle said.

If she eventually trades in her Cook County Board President's podium and wins the race for mayor, Preckwinkle's proposed budget would leave the county in good financial shape without the consternation last year's soda tax caused, even though it was later repealed.

Preckwinkle said she's trying to be honest and transparent with this year's proposed spending plan which a number of commissioners support. But not all.

"It's important to be honest with the people, but I don't think President Preckwinkle is being honest with the people. This is a budget, basically, because she's running for mayor," said Commissioner Richard Boykin.

"That's ridiculous," Preckwinkle responded. "I mean we made very, very difficult decisions last year that resulted in $300 million in cuts, but as a result of those decisions, structural decisions we made, we ended up in a pretty good place this year."

Boykin denied his criticism has anything to do with the fact he was defeated in the primary by a Preckwinkle-supported candidate.

When pressed about why she would want to give up her county job when things are looking so good to run a city with major financial challenges, Preckwinkle deferred.

"You know, I'm here today as County Board President, I think I'm only gonna talk about county issues," Preckwinkle said with a smile.

Preckwinkle also declined to weigh in on the County Inspector General's report alleging JB Pritzker engaged in a scheme to defraud taxpayers in a property tax case.

She also flatly denied that she was the one that leaked it.
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