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Cook sales tax hike should be rejected

Sunday, September 30, 2007
Special to suffredin.org
Editorial

Don't look now, but Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and other commissioners have set the stage to enact a massive sales tax increase.

True, Stroger has not publicly endorsed the proposed increase. But he did call an "emergency" meeting on Monday, meaning commissioners could adopt the measure on the same day they are to be holding hearings on it, and it would be naïve to think that's just a coincidence.

With interesting timing, Stroger's office last week released a report from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability that concludes, in the words of Stroger's press secretary, that "the county's revenue system is structurally unable to support the essential public services it is tasked to provide."

In other words, the public advocacy think tank argues that the county's financial problems have less to do with the county's spending practices than it does with an inadequate revenue system.

And that is kind of government Dilbert-speak for more taxes.

Please, spare us.

This is Cook County government we're talking about. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see waste and politics in its spending.

Supporters of Commissioner Joan Murphy's proposed 2 percentage point increase in the sales tax argue that the county has little choice because it already has reduced programs and eliminated jobs, and we acknowledge that Stroger has made an impressive effort to cut into the fat since he took office last December.

But we agree with opponents such as Commissioner Tim Schneider of Bartlett who says more waste and inefficiency must be eliminated instead.

Where to start? Might we suggest Stroger's tax-supported public relations machine.

Check the county Web site and you'll see that the county has issued 45 press releases since Stroger took office. For the most part, they're written as blatant propaganda for Stroger. The vast majority include his name in the headline. All told, 37 use his name in the first paragraph of the release, oftentimes leading the paragraph (although once early after he took office, the release referred mistakenly to his father John Stroger).

This is typical of the politics and inefficiency endemic in county government, and businesses and taxpayers shouldn't be asked to cough up more to pay for it.

The proposed sales tax increase would turn the overall sales tax in the Northwest suburbs into double digits. In Mount Prospect, for example, the tax would total 10.75 percent, while a suburb such as Oak Brook outside the county is 6.75 percent.

It would drive customers away from local merchants. And it would drive car dealerships and other businesses away from the county.

It's a ridiculous proposal, and we recommend that it - and anything like it - be rejected summarily.



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