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Cook County Board OKs budget with layoffs

Friday, February 23, 2007
Crain's Chicago Business

(AP) ó After a budget fight that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, Cook County commissioners on Friday approved a new $3-billion spending plan that includes laying off more than 1,000 workers and making cuts at county-run hospitals and clinics.
The county was facing a $500 million deficit and the budget, which does not raise taxes, was a significant political win for new county board president Todd Stroger. Stroger was elected in November after Democratic leaders anointed him to succeed his ailing father, who had run the county board for more than a dozen years.
"I think it's leading the county in the right direction," Stroger said early Friday. "But it's also not a great day when we have to lay off people."
Commissioner Forrest Claypool tried unsuccessfully to rally enough support for a plan that would have axed more management jobs but saved more frontline workers like prosecutors and nurses.
The job cuts have angered union leaders.
"This is a travesty," said Henry Bayer, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. "There are commissioners who turned their backs on the workers and the citizens of this county."
Stroger's budget includes more than 1,200 layoffs as part of a plan to eliminate almost 1,700 jobs. He did agree to restore some programs as well as sheriff's police and some nurses and prosecutors.
A majority of commissioners also decided to disband the 64-member force that polices the county's main hospital. It has been criticized for its handling of some incidents.
The move is effective Sept. 1 and Stroger said he likely won't veto the measure.



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