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Jackson, Stroger try to shift blame to gov

Thursday, January 25, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

The Rev. Jesse Jackson tried Wednesday to shield Cook County Board President Todd Stroger from mounting criticism and pointed anger over his proposed budget cuts to county health and safety programs.
Jackson said Stroger alone isn't to blame for cuts that are largely aimed at services and programs that help the poor. The two said Gov. Blagojevich bears some of the blame for the county crisis, for not releasing enough Medicaid funding fast enough to help the county health system.
But state officials said Cook County gets more than its fair share of federal Medicaid funds -- receiving four times as much as it should.
Stroger and Jackson maintain that if the state would speed up -- and increase -- the share Cook County gets in Medicaid funding, most of a $500 million budget crisis could be averted.
They also called for more federal funding for county health programs and concessions by unionized county employees.
State health care and family services director Barry Maram said the state provides plenty to Cook County in plenty of time. Though Cook County provides 4 percent of the state's overall Medicaid services, it receives 16 percent of all of the state's funding, he said.
Some ministers still upset
And while Jackson made his speech surrounded by ministers and he tapped the Rev. Marshall Hatch as their spokesman on this issue, Hatch said not all ministers are willing to shield Stroger from criticism over the cuts.
"Many of us are not in favor of simply letting Todd off the hook," he said.
Also Wednesday, suburban police chiefs rallied against cuts to Sheriff Tom Dart's budget, saying the office provides critical services to their towns.

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