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Tax repeal! Oh, sorry ...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Chicago Tribune editorial staff

Voters, your fierce resistance to the Cook County Board's sales-tax increase is hitting home. On Tuesday, the County Board voted by a wide margin to repeal the tax increase. Some commissioners who last year voted to enact that unneeded increase voted Tuesday to repeal -- because they're so tired of taking heat from you.

But don't celebrate yet. The tax increase likely will live on because board President Todd Stroger plans to veto the rollback.

Yes, Stroger wants to stay deep in your wallet.

Reform won't come to this tax-hungry government until voters oust Stroger and the regular Democrats who enable him. That's why we'll keep running Your Sales Tax Calendar, counting the days until Stroger & Co. face re-election. Then you can have your way with them.

The vote Tuesday came as a surprise. Board member Elizabeth Doody Gorman noticed that some of Stroger's board allies were no-shows at a board meeting. So Gorman set in motion what evolved to a 12-3 vote to kill the 1-percentage-point tax increase effective Jan. 1.

Stroger, visibly upset by the smackdown, immediately promised a veto. Overriding his veto requires an 80 percent vote of the board -- 14 of the 17 members. Two members who were absent Tuesday, Earlean Collins and Deborah Sims, are likely to join William Beavers, Jerry "Iceman" Butler and Robert Steele in sustaining a veto.

It's bad that Stroger has any governing power -- worse that he can uphold a veto with only four votes.

(Board member Larry Suffredin is pushing for state legislation that would lower the override threshold to 60 percent, or 11 votes. Why is that threshold now 80 percent? Just keep muttering, "This is Cook County.")

Rest assured that you have company in your impatience with Stroger and his refusal to acknowledge that county spending needs to be slashed. Tuesday's most significant moment came when Finance Committee Chairman John Daley told him, "You might want to listen for a change." That probably was a reference to Daley's suggestion two months ago that the county institute a hiring freeze -- a step Stroger hasn't taken. Another way to read that Daley quotation: "You say you need all this money and you're still hiring people? You won't even put on a freeze?"

Daley voted to impose the tax increase, but on Tuesday he voted for repeal. He seems to understand that when citizens see Stroger use their tax dollars to hire a busboy he likes, county government has zero credibility. No, we still don't have good answers on Stroger's hiring of Tony Cole and subsequent decision to oust Chief Financial Officer Donna Dunnings.

For now, though, voters enraged by the sales-tax increase for this wasteful government should be proud: You have changed some votes on this.

Stroger and his enablers planned from the get-go that you'd forget about the 2008 tax hike long before the elections of 2010.

Congrats on your refusal to play along.

So the little tax calendar in the upper righthand corner will just keep chugging along toward Feb. 2. That's the day of reckoning.

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