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County Board votes to repeal sales tax hike

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

(Crain’s) — Cook County commissioners on Tuesday voted in favor of repealing a controversial sales tax hike that was pushed through last year by board President Todd Stroger, but the action is unlikely to survive.

Board members voted 12-3 at their meeting to rescind the 1 percentage point increase, with the reduction to take effect Jan. 1. John Daley, Cook County’s finance chairman and a longtime Stroger ally, voted to overturn the hike.

Mr. Daley was the most prominent supporter of the repeal, but not the only commissioner to flip from backing the tax hike last year. Others who changed their votes are Joan Murphy and Joseph Moreno.

As the board meeting ended, Mr. Stroger announced that he would veto Tuesday’s action. He only needs three votes to sustain his veto, and the commissioners who voted against the repeal might be joined by two additional Stroger allies who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Board member Forrest Claypool said he believes it will not be possible to override Mr. Stroger’s veto.

“I don’t see it,” Mr. Claypool said. “There is this super (majority) thing.”

Mr. Stroger had attempted to engineer his own version of a rollback and recently offered to push for a quarter-percentage point repeal.

Some saw Tuesday’s action as a sign of a county board lashing out at leadership.

“Today was sort of a declaration of independence,” said board member Forrest Claypool. The vote “is a sign that commissioners increasingly are frustrated with Todd Stroger’s administration and its complete unwillingness to implement reform.”

The roll call vote came after heated debate between supporters and opponents. Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica posted frequent updates via Twitter during the meeting and documented outbursts from Mr. Stroger and other board members.

Mr. Stroger “is getting emotional and is using mild profanities . . . quite a show,” Mr. Peraica wrote.

At one point before the vote, Mr. Peraica seemed to doubt whether there was enough support to repeal the increase.

“Some commissioners are (beginning) to have cold feet and are moving against rollback, even though they spoke in favor of it just moments ago,” he wrote.

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