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Cook County Board: President Todd Stroger rethinks tax-repeal veto
Mayor Richard Daley calls Cook County sales-tax increase 'very questionable'

Thursday, May 07, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick and Dan Mihalopoulos

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger found himself politically isolated Wednesday as he rethought his pledge to block the repeal of an unpopular sales-tax increase.

Hours after Stroger said he may have too hastily vowed to veto the tax rollback, which commissioners approved a day earlier, Mayor Richard Daley called last year's 1-percentage-point tax increase "very questionable" and repealing it "something that I think they had to do."

The mayor's brother, county Finance Committee Chairman John Daley (D-Chicago), voted Tuesday to repeal the tax increase he once supported and said he did not know if Stroger would have his backing should he run for re-election next year.

Stroger did little to avoid a rift with the Daleys.

"Well, you know, the mayor passed nine taxes in two years," Stroger said. "Let's see you write about that, and then I'll talk to you about everything else."

Daley's last two budgets, which are twice as large as the county's spending plans, raised taxes and fees by more than $320 million a year. The county's sales-tax increase was expected to generate $426 million a year.

Stroger said the tax increase is still needed but called on countywide elected officials to either back the increase or say they can live without the extra money.

"When I do something, it's bad -- at least that's what we found out -- so somebody who has some 'credibility' needs to stand up and say, 'Look, we need the money,' and if they don't need the money, then say it: 'We don't need the money. Stroger's wrong.' "

Treasurer Maria Pappas, who has reduced her office budget, said, "I don't need it."

Spokesmen for State's Atty. Anita Alvarez, Sheriff Tom Dart and Assessor Jim Houlihan each said they were responsible for running their offices efficiently and effectively, not financing them.

"We would never ask President Stroger for advice on how to run the jail, so we don't plan to advise him on how to run his government," said Steve Patterson, Dart's spokesman.

Under state law, Stroger has until Monday to veto the repeal, said attorney Burton Odelson, a Stroger lawyer. It would take 14 of 17 votes to override a veto.

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