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Cook sales-tax foes await Quinn action

Thursday, November 05, 2009
Daily Herald
by Ted Cox

Republican Commissioners Tony Peraica and Timothy Schneider on Wednesday delayed plans to push for a rollback in the Cook County sales tax until Gov. Pat Quinn formally signs new legislation reducing the number of votes required to override President Todd Stroger's inevitable veto.

A spokesman for Schneider said they hoped Quinn would sign it before the next meeting of the Cook County Board Nov. 18. Quinn spokesman Bob Reed said the governor was going to "review the law" and has not made a decision on if or when to sign it.

Peraica, of Riverside, had planned to propose a full rollback of the 1 percent increase in the county sales tax imposed last year. If that failed, Schneider, of Bartlett, intended to resubmit the 0.5 percent cut that failed by a single vote to override Stroger's veto this summer.

The General Assembly recently passed legislation reducing the requirement for an override on the county board from a four-fifths to a three-fifths majority, meaning only 11 rather than 14 of the 17 commissioners would have to hold fast. But Quinn has yet to sign it and could conceivably take weeks to do so.

Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin, of Evanston, who supports the reduction in the sales tax, warned that language added to the bill in Springfield during the recent veto session could contain a "poison pill." Although it says the new law takes effect immediately, it also specifies staying consistent with the state constitution, which could give Stroger an angle to fight the new law in court.

Derek Blaida, the county's director of intergovernmental affairs, has previously stated that changing such rules in the middle of the county board's term would be unconstitutional and that any change in the override requirement would have to wait until 2011 after next year's general election.

The delay on the incendiary sales-tax issue produced a largely uneventful county board meeting. Instead, the commissioners endlessly debated a stopgap measure allowing Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Transitional Administrator Earl Dunlap to plan for any contingencies as he tries to comply with a new state law requiring counselors at the facility to have college degrees. Dunlap said most such workers at the detention center are only high-school graduates and that imposing the new law could rile their Teamsters union. The commissioners voted to authorize $4.5 million for private staffing should the center run into any resulting work action.

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