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Ramp up the pain?
Board talks of doubling parking tax

Sunday, March 02, 2008
Northwest Herald

Now that the Cook County Board has raised Chicago's sales tax to one of the nation's highest, commissioners say they plan to consider hiking the parking tax, too.

A parking tax increase was discussed as a possible option ahead of Friday's budget meeting, but it didn't come up for a vote before the board adjourned early Saturday.

Now that the Cook County Board has raised Chicago's sales tax to one of the nation's highest, commissioners say they plan to consider hiking the parking tax, too.
(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Sales tax vote

In favor (9)
Wlliam Beavers
Jerry Butler
Earlean Collins
John Daley
Joseph Mario Moreno
Joan Murphy
Deborah Sims
Robert Steele
Larry Suffredin

Against (8)
Forrest Claypool
Liz Gorman
Gregg Goslin
Roberto Maldonado
Tony Peraica
Mike Quigley
Tim Schneider
Peter Silvestri

After the marathon meeting, commissioners said they expect the board to revisit the idea of doubling the county parking tax this week.

That could drive the tax for monthly parkers from about $20 a month to $40.

Cook County taxpayers are already in for a 1 percentage point increase in the sales tax that would bring Chicago's overall sales tax to 10.25 percent, among the highest of any big U.S. city.

And the new sales tax passed Saturday will be enacted just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall called the possibility of raising the parking tax, in addition to the sales tax increase, "arrogant, inconsiderate and illogical."

"The taxpayers and citizens are not convinced that the county is spending the $3 billion it already receives as effectively and efficiently as possible, and now it's raising taxes at a level even higher than [Cook County President Todd Stroger] has stated was needed," Msall said.

"That is not only an undue burden on the citizens of Cook County, but we are fearful that it will be used by other metropolitan areas to take convention and tourism business from Chicago."

The Cook County Board passed the sales tax increase by a vote of 9-8 early Saturday, following a day of heavy negotiating, shouting matches and bruised egos. Commissioners had until midnight Friday to approve a balanced budget.

After ratifying the sales tax vote, commissioners approved the the entire budget by a vote of 10-7.

Stroger won the tax increase by agreeing to give up control of the county hospital system that has long been a patronage dumping ground.

In exchange, Commissioner Larry Suffredin agreed to provide the swing vote for the sales tax hike.

Under the plan, 14 officials from the medical, civic and labor community will pick 20 nominees to a hospital governing board. Stroger will pick nine of them, to be approved by the County Board.

The governing board will take over all responsibility for hospital operations, leaving the County Board with only budgeting responsibility.

The new board also will pick a new CEO, a position long dominated by politics. Current CEO Dr. Robert Simon was former board President John Stroger's personal doctor and has deep ties to the Stroger political machine.

The new board is expected to take over by the end of April and sit for at least three years.

A 1 percent sales tax will bring in $71 million this year and more than $400 million every year after. Commissioners filled a $234 million deficit by borrowing against next year's surplus.

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