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Stroger strikes back, threatens layoffs, closures

Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger ain't giving up easy.

    In an absolutely scorching statement released late Tuesday, Mr. Stroger threatened "thousands" of health and public safety layoffs and the closure of "at least one -- and possibly two" of the county's three hospitals.

    All that in the wake of a 12-3 vote earlier on Tuesday to repeal the 1 percentage point tax hike Mr. Stroger pushed through last year, a repeal effort that the county boss "condemns," according to his statement.

   The statement says the repeal would cost the county $245 million this year and roughly twice that next year. The "quarter-of-a-billion disaster" is occurring only because its advocates "have once again chosen to put their political opportunism ahead of the public well-being," the statement says.

  "Their dangerously responsible (sic) position threatens health care for hundreds of thousands of our patients, and will force the layoff of thousands of union workers at a time when the economy is facing its deepest crisis in 60 years," it states.

   Mr. Stroger earlier said he intends to veto the rollback, and apparently has the votes he needs to keep the hike in place.  It only takes three votes to sustain a veto -- three commissioners voted "no" Tuesday -- and two other Stroger allies were not at Tuesday's board meeting.

   Among those voting for the repeal, which would take effect Jan. 1, was board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley, a longtime Stroger backer who voted to impose the tax hike last year.

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