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Stroger says he's blocking sales tax repeal

Monday, May 11, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said today he is blocking the repeal of a controversial sales-tax increase.

Stroger announced the decision in a news release and later explained it on Chicago radio station WVON-AM. He accused the commissioners who engineered the roll-back vote of having no plan to replace the revenue that would have been lost and said the vote was "a political effort really to try to embarrass me."

Stroger appeared confident he could find one more commissioner to join the three who supported him last week by opposing the tax repeal.

"I  don't  think the votes are there to override the veto," Stroger said on WVON.

Stroger declared last week he would veto the repeal after county commissioners surprised him by approving it on a 12-3 vote that included support from four commissioners who had voted to increase the tax last year. 

It takes an extraordinary 14 of 17 county commissioners  to override a veto, a threshold repeal supporters said they were unlikely to meet.

In his press release, Stroger accused the board of pandering to voters ahead of the 2010 elections.

"Someone has to show leadership," Stroger said in the statement. "I will not jeopardize the well-being of County residents by allowing this faction of commissioners to end funding for vital services and destroy our health and public safety operations. There is too much at stake - for residents who desperately need these services, and for residents who deserve a government that is responsibly funded."

Stroger said rolling back the penny-on-a-dollar sales tax increase would have resulted in closing at least one of the county's three hospitals, as well as some health clinics.

None of the elected county officials had advised Stroger to use his veto.

State's Atty. Anita Alvarez, Sheriff Tom Dart and Assessor Jim Houlihan all said last week that it's the job of Stroger and the County Board to properly fund county government. Treasurer Maria Pappas said she could live with cuts if the tax were repealed.

Even Mayor Richard Daley weighed in, saying Stroger should let the repeal go through. Daley's brother, County Finance Committee Chairman John Daley (D-Chicago), who once supported the tax hike but voted to repeal it, also said Stroger should not use his veto.

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