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County board again fails to override Stroger sales tax veto

Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

The Cook County Board today continued its political sparring over last year's sales tax increase, failing to override the latest veto of a measure to repeal the tax.

Commissioners voted 9-6 to override Board President Todd Stroger's latest veto of a tax rollback plan, but it takes 14 out of 17 votes to overturn a veto at the county. One commissioner was absent and Commissioner Earlean Collins (D-Chicago) voted "present."

More than a week ago, Stroger vetoed a proposal that would have rolled back last year's penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase over two years. Three-quarters of the increase would have been rolled back on Jan. 1 and the rest one year later.

Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) led the charge to override, saying that the increase in a "very regressive" tax has led to "horrendous downfalls" in businesses in suburbs that abut other counties where the taxes are lower.

Stroger has proposed rolling back one-quarter of the increase, saying new federal revenue makes that possible. But he maintains the rest is needed to prevent budget cuts that would decimate the county's vast public health and criminal justice systems.

"Nothing in the world has changed," Stroger said, defending his veto. "We're the only government that I can think of not scrambling around talking about how much debt we are in."

He later added, "I was an investment banker for seven years, so I know what we are talking about."

It was the second time Stroger vetoed a rollback, prompting some commissioners to refer to a "Groundhog Day" approach to the issue. Others called it a game of ping pong.

But Commissioner John Daley (D-Chicago), chairman of the county Finance Committee, said he will call a meeting next week to search for a middle ground on the issue. "Hopefully, we can come up with a compromise that the board can accept and will accept," he said.

Some of Stroger's most ardent supporters on the board said they, too, would like to find a compromise.

The sales tax looms large as an election issue next year, when Stroger's job and all 17 commissioner seats are on the ballot.

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