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Cook County Board Passes Partial Sales Tax Rollback, Can They Override Stroger Veto?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Huffington Post
by Tim Taliaferro

A deal to partially roll back Cook County's highest-in-the-nation sales tax overwhelmingly passed Tuesday, the third time the County Board has voted to reverse a 1 percentage point increase since it passed last July.

"There are now 14 [sic] commissioners who have found religion and will support a half-point reduction in the county sales tax," Commissioner Tony Peraica Tweeted during the vote. "The pressure by the taxpayers and Chicago Tribune, as well as later others, to reduce this ill-advised sales tax increase have succee[ded]."

The vote to reduce the sales tax by half a percentage point originally passed 13-3-1 (Commissioner Forrest Claypool was absent). A re-vote, taken because of a procedural question, put the final tally at 12 in favor, 2 opposed, 1 present and 2 absent.

Board President Todd Stroger vetoed two recent efforts to cut back the 1-percentage-point tax hike the board instituted July 1, 2008, and a spokesman said he will veto this one, as well.

"His position is really simple," Stroger spokesman James Ramos told the Huffington Post. "The county owes money and we have obligations. If the commissioners come up with new revenue streams that will put money in the bank, so to speak, the board president would love to do what he can for the county. But to do it now and talk about solutions later, he's just not going to do that."

It will take 14 votes to override Stroger's veto. If that happens, the tax reduction would take effect Dec. 1, according to the Daily Herald.

According to Ramos, the tax cut, should it survive, would force an estimated 10 percent spending cut across the board, including to the sheriff's and state's attorney's offices. The cuts could be even more severe in other departments if commissioners move to protect health care or public safety budgets.

"A lot is at stake at the moment," Ramos said. "Because of their budget issues, we have no confidence that the state will be able to balance their budget and be able to fund the different programs in the county."

Claypool will vote to override Stroger's veto, his chief of staff told the Huffington Post.

"Yeah, he's going to override it," Doug Kucia said. "He's against this tax, he's against all of the Stroger taxes."

Nevertheless, Ramos said Stroger isn't worried.

"Let the finance people talk to some of these commissioners," Ramos said. "Some of the commissioners will want to talk with [Stroger]. These commissioners all want to cut, but to reduce the tax and think of something later -- it's not fiscally responsible."

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