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Cook County sales tax hike stands -- for now

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Cook County’s penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike will stand, elected leaders decided today, but a future repeal is still on the table.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger vetoed a full repeal of the the 1 percentage point hike by Jan. 1, and attempts to override that veto failed during the board’s regular meeting today.

But the five Republicans on the board quickly pushed forward a measure that would repeal the tax hike over two years. Though that measure passed, Stroger said he would veto it, too.

A year ago the sales tax hike was OKd by the board, pushing Chicago’s overall sales tax to 10.25 percent — the highest of any large city in the country. But as the 2010 election approaches, the drumbeat for repealing the tax has grown louder.

Stroger himself has proposed rolling back the tax increase by 25 percent, and that legislation was sent to the finance committee for review.

Those pushing for the full repeal have said the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase hurts both consumers and businesses and that the county’s bloated government needs to be slashed. But Stroger argued that eliminating the entire hike would effectively shutter Provident Hospital and health care clinics that serve the poor and uninsured.

The timing for a full rollback couldn’t be worse, Stroger said, considering that the economic downturn has resulted in thousands of layoffs and a spike in the number of uninsured seeking care at county-run hospitals.

Today commissioners convened for a regular meeting, and the first order of business was dealing with Stroger’s veto.

In the end, only 11 commissioners voted to override, while four voted against it and two voted “present.”



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