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The fate of Stroger's tax

Monday, May 18, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Chicago Tribune editorial staff

Tuesday will be a crucial day for the Cook County Board -- and for taxpayers. Let's not get lost in the weeds -- which is exactly what the board's crafty spenders want all of us to do. Instead, let's keep this straightforward:

--For 10-plus months, this vastly overstaffed and inefficient government has been collecting a full-percentage-point sales tax increase that hurts the poorest among us the most, and that puts retail businesses at a serious disadvantage.

--The County Board recently voted 12-3 to kill the tax hike. Board President Todd Stroger vetoed that action. And on Tuesday the board is scheduled to decide whether to override his veto.

--That veto override is the Tuesday vote that matters most. Stroger's allies on the board don't want you to believe that. They want you to think they're swell compromisers: As part of their ceaseless effort to confuse this discussion and confound the public will, they're offering a slow-mo alternative that would phase out the tax gradually. Don't fall for this. The moment the 2010 election is over and the heat from victimized taxpayers subsides, they'll surely try to undo any phase-out. In the meantime, they won't have to do the necessary streamlining of county government. Why? Because your tax dollars will still be washing through their door by the hundreds of millions.

--Note to any board members whose thinking is too cute by half: Don't believe for a moment that you can hide behind the Stroger allies' phony alternative. Override his veto. End of discussion. Your vote last year on imposing the tax and your vote this week on the override are the ones on which you'll be judged. They're the votes your constituents will be reading about, the votes your opponents in next February's primary election will be highlighting in bold print in their advertising. You thought last year's vote on this unneeded tax would go away, and it hasn't. The override vote is just the same. Finance Chairman John Daley will vote to override Stroger's veto. The rest of you need to do the same. Then cut this government down to a size that your recession-battered constituents can afford.

--Taxpayers, start dialing if you want to offer last-minute advice to the two board members who missed the 12-3 vote to kill the tax. If they join the 12, the override vote will succeed. Maybe you have thoughts on the tax, maybe you have thoughts on their political futures. Earlean Collins' telephone numbers are 312-603-4566 and 773-626-2184. And Deborah Sims' numbers are 312-603-6381 and 708-371-4251.

--Just so we're clear: The County Board will or won't override Stroger's veto. They decide on the tax. You'll then decide on them -- as this little calendar attests:


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