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Stroger makes bad tax proposal worse

Saturday, October 20, 2007
Daily Herald

Try as we might, we don't think we could describe Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's proposed myriad tax increases any better than Commissioner Tim Schneider did.

County government has "once again embarked upon a feeding frenzy," the Bartlett Republican observed. "The elephant in the room isn't the structural deficit. It's the waste and patronage and inefficiency of Cook County."


Three weeks ago in this space, we warned that Stroger had set the stage for a huge, unjustified increase in the sales tax and we called for the proposal to be rejected.

Stroger went ahead with the ill-advised idea, but wiser heads prevailed on the county board (yes, difficult as it is to believe by the way the county is mismanaged, there are some wise heads on the county board). Partly through his own political bungling, Stroger couldn't get the votes, and it appeared a compromise was in the offing.

Well, let's just say, never overestimate Todd Stroger's good judgment.

Instead of a compromise on his proposal for a 266-percent increase in the county sales tax, Stroger is adding to it!

In his budget address last week, Stroger restored 1,130 county jobs and proposed to double the county gas tax and to double the county parking tax in addition to the big sales tax increase.

All that means that the county portion of the sale tax would go to 2.75 percent from 0.75 percent; the county portion of the gas tax would go to 12 cents per gallon from 6 cents; and the county portion of the parking tax would go to $2 from $1 in lots that charge at least $12 to park.

Not just one big tax increase, but three.

If we didn't know better, we might suspect a tax on bottled water will be next.

To paraphrase the old Jon Lovitz line from Saturday Night Live, Commissioner Tony Peraica must look at Stroger in wonderment some times and think, "I can't believe I lost to this guy!"

All told, Stroger's triple tax increase would generate $977 million in added revenue per year, or about a one-third increase in the size of the county's current $3 billion budget.

It's excessive and uncalled for, a blatant attempt to buy county board votes with jobs.

Mostly, it would be an unfair assault on the taxpayers that would hurt local merchants.

Cook County government is awash in waste, mismanagement and patronage, and no tax increase is justified until all of that is addressed.

Three weeks ago, we characterized the sales tax proposal as ridiculous and urged that it, and anything like it, be rejected summarily.

As for this latest plan? Ditto. Times three.

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