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County Board caves on sales tax rollback

Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Sun Times editorial staff

There was a real sense of anticipation in the Cook County Board chambers on Tuesday.

This was the day, finally, when the commissioners were expected to stand up to Board President Todd Stroger and partially roll back the unnecessary county sales tax hike he championed.

In July, Commissioner Sims voted with other commissioners to reduce by half the 1 percentage point tax increase. But on Tuesday, when her vote really mattered, she caved.

An override of Strogerís veto of the roll back required 14 of 17 commissioners. Sims was to be the 14th.

Sims changed course, she says, because itís not clear yet how a loss in tax revenue might impact county services. Keeping all the county health clinics open is her top priority.

We donít want to close clinics, either. Thatís why we were glad to hear that the Cook County Health and Hospitals System proposed budget ó released Tuesday, just in time for the vote ó didnít call for closings.

That budget isnít set in stone, and Strogerís office said a roll back would have required deeper cuts to the health system budget.

But thatís only if you, like Stroger, rely solely on the bluntest of instruments ó across-the-board cuts or big tax increases.

Believe it or not, there are alternatives: cutting wasteful spending, axing useless programs, drawing in more revenue from patients, trimming a flabby bureaucracy.

Stroger sold this tax increase by threatening massive cuts if he didnít get it.

He failed to convince us then, and the list of Stroger doubters grows every day.

Unfortunately, that list was one name short on Tuesday. With Simsí vote, the next chance to roll back the county sales tax wonít come until spring.

But donít give up hope.

In February, voters get the final say.  



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