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Stroger wins $3 billion county budget battle
3 GOP members deliver majority, but anger lingers

Friday, February 23, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger won a political battle Friday when the board passed his $3 billion budget, but he made plenty of enemies along the way — including union leaders and hundreds of county workers about to lose their jobs.
After a day filled with backroom meetings, the board voted 13-4 to support Stroger's budget, but only after earlier, closer votes on alternative budget proposals pushed primarily by commissioners Forrest Claypool and Larry Suffredin.
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger (left) and County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley confer during Thursday's budget meeting. Protesters rallied in opposition to Stroger's proposed budget plan.
While the budget will result in layoffs and the end of some programs, it does not raise taxes, allowing Stroger to boast that he kept firm to a campaign pledge.
Stroger said the budget focuses on “mission-driven services” and represents the beginning of his plan “to reinvent Cook County government.”
Stroger won approval by persuading Republicans Peter Silvestri, Gregg Goslin and Liz Gorman to back his budget plan. A swing vote also came from Mike Quigley, who just days ago told Stroger “from here we part” on the budget after Stroger took $13 million from the Forest Preserve District to help balance the budget.
Quigley defended the jump back to Stroger's plan by saying it was filled with compromises and cuts far less than Stroger's earlier 17 percent across-the-board cutting plan.
Still, hundreds of county workers are expected to lose their jobs to help fill a $500 million deficit. Claypool pushed for Stroger to cut 400 “paper-pushing bureaucrats” to allow more nurses, prosecutors and police to stay on the payroll — to no avail.
Stroger did agree to restore the Access to Care health program, Women's Justice Services and community service programs for the sheriff, along with 65 sheriff's police, 175 courtroom deputies and 25 probation officers, as well as some nurses and prosecutors.
Stroger still wants to close 13 of the county's 26 health clinics.
Thursday's budget meeting drew hundreds of county workers concerned about layoffs. Dozens stayed late into the night, awaiting word on their jobs.
Stroger refinanced bonds to save $150 million but still had to cut $350 million.
Still, Claypool and others said Stroger's plan didn't go far enough.
“This is a travesty,” said Henry Bayer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union local.
“There are commissioners who turned their backs on the workers and the citizens of this county.”

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