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County Board slashes sales tax, claims votes to override Stroger veto

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

    Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is vowing to veto the latest plan to cut back on the penny-on-a-dollar sales-tax hike that he pushed through a year ago. But a key opponent says he likely will have the votes for an override.

   The veto threat, confirmed by Mr. Stroger's office, came after Commissioners John Daley and Lawrence Suffredin met with Mr. Stroger last week and asked him to halve the tax hike by early 2010.

   Mr. Stroger said he couldn't because of the cost of county labor, unfunded pensions and a new item: overtime for sheriff's police because of their investigation into grave dumping at Burr Oak Cemetery. Mr. Stroger even reportedly backed off on his own call earlier this year to repeal 1/4-cent of the hike.

   Mr. Stroger's spokesman didn't comment on the 1/4 cent, but confirmed that the president would veto any half-cent repeal, for the reasons stated above.

   Mr. Stroger so far has had just enough votes to sustain any veto. But Mr. Daley, who heads the board's Finance Committee, says he sees "major progress" in attracting the two additional votes needed for an override.

   Other board sources say Mr. Daley may have picked up as many as three additional votes, though the three commissioners involved -- Deborah Sims, Joan Murphy and Earlean Collins -- have returned to the Stroger fold in past disputes.

   Last time the board moved to repeal, the override attracted only 12 of the 14 votes needed.

   Who's right? The board meets midday Tuesday, and we'll see who has and doesn't have the needed votes.

   * * *

2 p.m. update:  The board did vote, 13-3, to repeal half of Mr. Stroger's penny-on-a-dollar sales tax hike, with Commissioners Murphy, Sims and Collins flipping. Another commissioner who favors repeal, Forrest Claypool, wasn't at the meeting.

    If Mr. Claypool joins the 13 and they all stick together, the votes are there to override any veto. But Mr. Stroger can take his time and try to reel back someone. He only needs one vote back on his side to win.

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