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Todd Stroger vetoes roll back in Cook County sales tax
County Board president follows through on promise

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Robert Becker

Less than a week after the Cook County Board voted again to roll back a portion of the county sales tax, Board President Todd Stroger on Monday delivered on his promise to veto the measure for the fourth time.

Facing a strong challenge in the Feb. 2 primary, Stroger sounded a theme that's become a mainstay of his campaign: repealing even part of last year's controversial sales tax increase will devastate the county's health care system.

"I refuse to stand idle while opposition commissioners continue to decimate" the health care system, said Stroger, who was surrounded by members of a union representing some county health workers at the news conference on the steps of Stroger Hospital, named after his late father.

"As County Board president I've taken my stand," Stroger added. "There is no gray area on this issue."

Stroger championed the 2008, penny-on-the-dollar increase in the sales tax. Last week the County Board voted 12-5 to reduce the sales tax to 1.25 percent from 1.75 percent.

The board had three times voted to roll back the sales tax, only to be rebuffed by Stroger's vetoes.

But overturning the veto this time could be easier after the state passed a law reducing the number of commissioners required to override a veto to 11 from 14. The board could vote on the veto at its next meeting on Dec. 1.

Stroger also sought to make County Board members aware of a potential backlash at the polls for failure to support his veto, mentioning by name Commissioners Robert Steele, Earlean Collins and Edwin Reyes -- all Chicago Democrats.

"These commissioners must hear from the general public ... they need to hear from the one million users of our system," Stroger said.

Critics immediately disputed Stroger's dire fiscal prediction. Commissioner Anthony Peraica said the county's 2010 budget passed last week already accounts for the half-penny rollback.

"There's no shortfall, no closure of clinics and hospitals," said Peraica, who attended Stroger's news conference.

In recent weeks Stroger has indicated his lawyers will study the legality of the new law restricting his veto power, but he hasn't said whether he would challenge it.

Asked what he would do if his veto fails Stroger said, "I have to sit down, and we have to figure out how do we keep everything that we can keep. These are hard decisions that affect thousands of lives."

Tribune reporter Hal Dardick contributed to this report.

rxbecker@tribune.com


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