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Stroger faces fire after missing special meeting

Monday, October 22, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger called for a special meeting Monday designed to blunt criticism of his tax plan that would raise more money than he can spend in 2009.

The meeting was called to pass a non-binding pledge that if that scenario comes to pass, he'll rebate taxpayers the difference.

The board showed up. Stroger didn't.

So, in his absence, commissioners sent the measure to committee and then proceeded to tear the very concept of it to shreds.

"This resolution -- I mean I've just wasted my time coming over here for a special board meeting that had the (phrase) we'll reduce taxes 'if appropriate.' If appropriate -- give me a break. It's not appropriate to impose the tax in the first place, so you don't have to abate them if they aren't appropriate," said Commissioner Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat.

"Gimmick may be the wrong word. Sleight of hand may be the best choice of words," said Commissioner Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat.

Even John Daley, chairman of the finance committee and an ally of Stroger's, criticized the resolution.

"I really don't know how we would abate sales or gas or parking (taxes)," said Daley, referring to the taxes Stroger is trying to raise this budget cycle by nearly $1 billion.

Because they are consumption taxes paid in a store or at the gas pump, there's no mechanism by which to refund people proportionate to what they paid, Daley pointed out.

"That would be extremely hard," said Daley.

"How 'bout impossible?" chimed in Republican Commissioner Tony Peraica of Riverside.

"I think it's a serious flaw," concluded Daley.

Asked where the president was, his spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi said he had another meeting to attend.

Asked how the rebate would work, she later released a prepared statement that read: "The abatement provision in the (resolution) solely pertains to the abatement of the county property tax levy. The reduction or elimination provisions pertain to the rates of the existing 'home-rule' taxes like the county use tax."

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