Cook County Board President
Todd Stroger vetoed the halfpenny-on-the-dollar rollback of the county
sales tax passed last week during a news conference Monday outside the
Chicago hospital named for his father.
Cloaking himself metaphorically if not literally in the
white lab coat of a doctor, Stroger said, "My veto is only about
protecting this health-care system."
"Obviously, not too shocking, but I think he's being
really presumptuous and overly optimistic," responded Orland Park
Republican Commissioner Liz Gorman, who voted for the repeal and
insists the high sales tax is prompting consumers to drive across the
county line in her district, which runs along Cook's western fringe.
"It's a politically motivated act where he's trying to incense his
Backed by union leaders, medical workers, Chicago
clergy and community activists chanting, "We support the veto," Stroger
threatened that the cut in the sales tax would likely lead to the
closing of Provident and Oak Forest hospitals as well as clinics across
the county's Health and Hospitals System and cause a deluge of patients
at the John H. Stroger Hospital where he held the news conference.
"There is no gray area on this issue," Stroger said. "I
refuse to stand idle while opposition commissioners decimate this
He targeted Democratic Chicago Commissioners Robert
Steele, Earlean Collins and Edwin Reyes in trying to preserve his veto
against an expected override at the regularly scheduled County Board
meeting Dec. 1. The rollback passed last week by a 12-5 vote, with all
three voting in favor. Only 11 votes are needed to override thanks to a
new law passed by the General Assembly and signed this month by Gov.
Quinn, so Stroger would need to peel away two.
Three previous attempts to roll back the 1 percentage
point increase, or a portion of it, in the county sales tax imposed
last year have failed to meet a higher four-fifths threshold for an
"It's really going to have to be the people who speak
on this issue," Stroger said in urging voters to call the three
targeted commissioners. "If they don't speak, with the next budget, I'm
going to have to pull rabbits out of the hat."
Yet those speaking for a majority of the board said
they expected the will of the people to tell as well - on their side.
Glenview Republican Commissioner Gregg Goslin said he expected Steele,
Collins and Reyes to hold fast. "I would think they would," Goslin
said. "Frankly, I've been going through the roll call thinking, where's
he going to get the votes? I can't find it."
"I don't see it," echoed Gorman. "It makes absolutely no sense that they would repeal their vote and slip on this issue."
"I'm not surprised the president vetoed it," added
Bartlett Republican Commissioner Timothy Schneider, "but I'm confident
their vote to originally repeal it will stand and that they'll stand
pat and override the veto with the rest of us."
The board already accounted for the rollback in the
county sales tax from 1.75 to 1.25 percent, which would take effect
July 1, in the 2010 budget it passed last week. The cut in the sales
tax would show up in the last two months of the fiscal year, so the
board voted to cut the budget $32.5 million across the board.
Yet Stroger, who wore a lapel button reading, "Cut
waste, not services," at the news conference, said the major problem
would come the following year in 2011, when $200 million would have to
be cut, on top of HHS losing $100 million in onetime federal funding.
"With that, there is no way the hospital system can
remain open as it is Monday," Stroger said. "There's going to be
"It's really foolish to try to solve the problems with
this health-care system by cuts," added Dr. David Goldberg, president
of medical staff at Stroger Hospital.
Yet commissioners favoring the reduction in the sales
tax said it was foolish to lose business and tax revenue with consumers
crossing county lines for a lower sales tax in a tough economy.
Schneider said he expected the board to "stand up for the taxpayers of
Cook County rather than the politics within Cook County."
"I just think he's unrealistic," Goslin said of
Stroger. "He's out of step with what's going on in the world Monday.
Government everywhere is cutting back."
"Again, he is out of touch with what the voters in Cook
County want him to do," said Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
President Terrence O'Brien, who is running against Stroger in
February's Democratic Primary for president of the County Board. He
called the veto "arrogant and defiant," adding, "I would not be
surprised if Stroger went so far as to challenge this whole thing in
court, which surely will cost the taxpayers even more money they don't
The board will decide once and for all next Tuesday just which side it's on concerning the issue.