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After override win, Stroger vows to veto again

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Six allies of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger held fast Tuesday, declining to override his veto and keeping the county's 1.75 percent sales tax intact.

But commissioners trying to roll back the 2008 1-percentage-point increase weren't giving up. They immediately passed a measure that would still roll the 1-point tax increase back, but in two phases: .75 of a point in the first year and .25 in the second.

That put the issue before Stroger again, who immediately announced he'd veto that as well. Considering it had even less support than the full rollback - commissioners Joan Murphy and Joseph Mario Moreno voted against the two-year plan - a second override attempt also would appear doomed to fail.

Stroger favors a smaller rollback of a quarter-point, with possible further decreases in future years if revenues hold steady.

Not only did Stroger sustain his original veto, but he picked up another vote since the last time the board had voted on the matter.

Commissioners trying to override the president's veto of a 1-percentage-point rollback needed 14 votes, but only 11 backed it. That was down from the 12 who voted to roll back the tax on May 5.

Helping Stroger keep the tax were Chicago Democrats Deborah Sims, Jerry Butler, William Beavers and Moreno. Moreno had voted for repeal on May 5.

Stroger was also aided by Earlean Collins and Robert Steele, both Chicago Democrats, who voted present.

Because an override requires a four-fifths vote of the entire board, not just those voting or present, a present vote effectively acted to keep the veto intact.

Commissioners who voted to keep the tax depicted the issue as one of preserving public health care, while those voting to repeal said the cuts could come without sacrificing services if the county were run more efficiently.

"This is about the haves and the have-nots," Sims said. "And it's fine when the haves say, 'You don't need it,' because they don't need it."

Speaking to Republican commissioners mostly from the suburbs who had argued the tax is hurting businesses, she continued: "I looked at their districts and I looked at my district. We don't have any businesses to leave."

"There's plenty of room here to cut," countered Forrest Claypool, a Chicago Democrat and potential challenger to Stroger in the 2010 election. "The fact (is) that (county government is) a political playground for ward bosses throughout this county."

Stroger said Claypool and others mischaracterize the county's performance, noting that county services are regularly delivered seamlessly, and that there is little room to cut.

"I don't see people jumping up and saying, 'I can't get my birth certificate,' (or,) 'The sheriff's office didn't come when I called them.' ... I don't know how you can say we're unsuccessful," Stroger said.

Commissioner Joan Murphy, who was the original sponsor of the 1-percentage point increase, appeared to want to have her cake and eat it, too. On May 5, she joined Stroger opponents in voting to repeal the measure. Tuesday, she spoke out against overriding Stroger's veto, but then cast her vote to do just that.

In the subsequent vote on the .75- and .25 percentage-point rollback, she then voted with Stroger forces against it.

Notably absent from Stroger's corner Tuesday was Commissioner and Finance Chairman John Daley, who continues to distance himself from the county board president, although he was a loyal supporter of the former president, Todd Stroger's father, John Stroger.

"John and I were extremely close; Todd is a younger man. Personally, we're fine. Politically, we might differ," Daley said.

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