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A Cook Co. sales tax compromise?

Saturday, October 27, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Stroger is willing to deal with board over 2 percentage-point increase

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger signaled this week he may be ready to back down slightly from his requested 2 percentage-point increase in the sales tax.

"I believe the president said he's willing to look at some type of compromise, but it would have to make sense," said Ibis Antongiorgi, Stroger's spokeswoman, in explaining comments Stroger made Thursday during a taping of WBBM's "At Issue" program. It airs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on 780 AM.

Just how far Stroger's willing to bend remains to be seen.

Stroger's newfound willingness to deal did not come as a surprise to several county board commissioners, given that he couldn't muster the votes earlier this year for the 2 percentage-point hike.

"He hasn't got the votes," said Democratic Commissioner Mike Quigley of Chicago.

Stroger is facing a $239 million shortfall for the 2008 budget. He proposes closing it with the 2 percentage-point sales tax hike, a doubling of the county gas tax and a doubling of the county parking tax.

Much of the budget debate centers around the cost of the county's bureau of health, which is under Stroger's control. A "blue-ribbon" panel of health experts recently recommended that control of the bureau be given to an independent board in order to free it of politics and patronage.

The blue-ribbon panel laid out nine possible methods of governance used at other public health facilities around the nation and left the final decision up to the county board.

On Thursday, Stroger named Cook County Commissioner Gregg Goslin of Glenview, a Republican, to chair a new committee in tandem with Democratic Commissioner Joan Murphy. Four other Democratic commissioners will serve on the panel: Robert Steele, John Daley, Earlean Collins and Jerry Butler. Republican Commissioner Pete Silvestri will also be on the panel.

The new committee will decide which type of independent governance, if any, would work best for the health bureau.

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