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County Board nixes tax increases
Budget cuts next likely option

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

In rapid-fire progression today, the Cook County Board shot down a series of small tax increase proposals meant to help balance its budget.
Along the way, County Board President Todd Stroger’s plan to hike the sales tax by 2 percent died an unofficial death, too.
Still left is a $238 million deficit that must be filled by Feb. 28 or county government risks a shutdown.
But with a clear directive that taxes will not be raised by a majority of the board –- and Stroger unwilling to offer alternatives –- there’s little left to do but make cuts.
“The [Stroger] administration failed to sell this budget,” Commissioner Liz Gorman said, adding Stroger’s “take it or leave it” approach isn’t working.
“President Stroger has washed his hands of it,” Commissioner Forrest Claypool said. “[He] has to be involved in this process.”
But Commissioner William Beavers said there is “a lack of goodwill” among the board, and there’s a politically-driven agenda to shut down the government to show “Todd can’t run the county.”
Next week, every elected county official will be asked to come before the board with a plan to cut 10 percent from their office budgets. That comes on the heels of a demand for 17 percent in cuts to the same offices last year.
Commissioners say it will do those officials no good to bring throngs of employees to passionately plead for jobs, nor should those officials expect “a lovefest” about how their office should be exempt.
Instead, hard questions will be asked about a bevy of programs, services and offices -- and whether they’re needed.
It will be up to each official to decide where to cut, taking the onus off the board.


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