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County board delays tackling annual payroll increase issue

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

A move to cut expenses that many think are at the at the root of Cook County's budget problems failed to make it out of committee Tuesday.

The resolution dealt with how much county employees should contribute toward their own health care and whether they should continue receiving annual cost of living increases and "step" increases that amount to 7.5 percent a year.

Business leaders and even Cook County Board President John Stroger have cited the 7.5 percent annual salary increases as the reason the county is perpetually in the hole each budget year.

The resolution, sponsored by Commissioners Gregg Goslin, a Glenview Republican, and Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, urged Stroger's administration to curb those step increases for the 30 percent of county employees that are not represented by a union. Changes in union contracts must be negotiated with union workers and, unlike non-union employees, can't be dictated by fiat.

But after a closed-door meeting on the issue, the finance labor subcommittee tabled the issue until at least next week.

Commissioner Joan Murphy, a Crestwood Democrat, chairs the committee and said it was closed to the public because - although the resolution only cites nonunion employees -commissioners discussed strategy on how they'll deal with union members as well.

The resolution was tabled because the language would have dictated immediate changes to the nonunion employees, and commissioners want to deal with union employees first.

Quigley disputed that the resolution would have been binding at all.

Carl Hansen, a Mt. Prospect Republican and a member of the committee, acknowledged that the administration could cut annual increases to non-union employees now, doing so without similar reductions to union employees would be unfair.

"It should be equivalent as much as you can make it," Hansen said.

In other board business, finance committee chairman John Daley, a Chicago democrat, announced that the board will try to pass a budget Feb. 23. By law, the board must pass one by the end of February.

Board members are debating how to close a $73 million deficit. President John Stroger has proposed new taxes on hotels and restaurants; other commissioners have proposed budget cuts.

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