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Cook County asks state for $100 million for health care

Thursday, July 26, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff writer

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger on Wednesday ruled out a property tax increase for 2008 while asking legislators to provide $100 million in the state budget for the county health system.
Stroger said the state needs to kick in cash to keep the troubled county system afloat because the whole state benefits from the county's willingness to provide health care for the poor.
"The governor's talking about universal health care; this is universal health care right here," Stroger said. "We'll see you no matter what."
Stroger and seven Chicago aldermen held a news conference at Stroger Hospital asking for the state money. Stroger has been making requests since spring.
The aldermen said county health services were crucial to the health of the community and saved the state millions in aid it otherwise would have to pay to private hospitals.
"It's doable, and people in Springfield need to just suck it up ... and give us the money," said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).
Stroger warned of a second round of deep cuts to the health system and said what the Legislature does or doesn't include in the upcoming state budget makes no difference on whether he'll seek a property tax increase.
"I can tell you now, there won't be a property tax increase (for 2008)," Stroger said.
He declined to answer a question about whether he would consider other tax increases.
Stroger has hinted several times he was considering a property tax increase as the county heads for another major budget deficit. Patient fees from the county hospitals are coming in lower than last year.
Stroger and hospital officials insisted Wednesday that they've made big changes in the hospital's troubled billing system, but he said changes could take 36 months and require investing in new technology.
"Even if we fixed everything today, there'd still be a lag in getting the revenue," said John Cookingham, the health bureau's chief financial officer.
Stroger promised he would not ask the state for a similar grant next year.


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