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Stroger Spars With Board Over New Tax Hike
Board Passes Bond Measure

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CHICAGO -- Cook County may have the highest sales tax in the country, but just 79 days after that increase, County Board President Todd Stroger says he needs even more money.

The plan to raise money includes floating hundreds of millions of dollars in new bonds.

"Either he's borrowing this money as funny money to use and play with for his re-election campaign, or he's covering up additional out-of-control spending and hidden deficits," Forrest Claypool (D-12th) said.

Wednesday's debate went on for hours.

"How long are the taxpayers of Cook County going to have it stuck to them," Anthony Peraica (R-16th) asked, showing obvious frustration. "How long? How long?"

At times, the meeting grew testy, but Stroger and his allies contended that they weren't doing anything which hadn't been done many times before.

"Is it prudent to give a blanket authority to the president?" Larry Suffredin (D-13th) asked. "I don't believe it is."

When it appeared that Stroger did not have the votes, the meeting adjourned for an hour while arms twisted, and Claypool pleaded with his colleagues to vote down the measure.

"If this tax increase of almost half a billion dollars is not enough to pay the bills, where is the money going?" Claypool asked.

In the end, the measure passed, and Stroger declared that it was absolutely no big deal; the bills simply needed to be paid.

"The board has approved all this stuff," Stroger said. "This stuff was approved a long time ago."

Stroger's opponents did have a couple of concessions. Most notably, that none of the money can be used in the county's working cash fund, and that Stroger's staff will have to come before the board before executing any big bond deals.

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