Cook County sales tax to be reduced by a half-penny
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
by Lisa Donovan
It’s official: Cook County’s unpopular sales tax will be shaved by a half-penny next year.
Today, a majority of Cook County Commissioners overrode Board President Todd Stroger’s veto of rollback legislation.
Despite heavy behind-the-scenes lobbying by unions and a coalition of
ministers standing with Stroger to keep the sales tax in place,
commissioners voted 12-5 to roll back the county’s portion of the sales
tax from 1.75 to 1.25, or a half penny on the dollar.
Commissioner Robert Steele, who voted to override the board president’s
vote, was among the board members Stroger singled out in an effort to
change his vote.
“They were sending people at us all weekend,” Steele told reporters
before the vote. Asked whether he was swayed, Steele said: “I wear my
While Stroger championed the hike and a majority of commissioners
approved the full penny increase in 2008, anger over the sales tax
looms as a central issue in the 2010 elections.
Stroger has argued the sales tax is needed to keep the county’s $1
billion hospital and healthcare system for the poor and uninsured in
place. Otherwise, he has said, Provident and Oak Forest hospitals may
likely shutter as full-service hospitals, slashing union jobs and
hurting those who need the free healthcare services the county provides.
He invoked his late father, Cook County Board President John Stroger
and the new county hospital that was named for him. He reminded
commissioners that they lauded the new facility, but warned: “Now
that’s all in jeopardy.”
But Commissioner Tony Peraica, a suburban Republican who didn’t vote
for the initial hike, has argued that cleansing the county payrolls of
political patronage could shore up finances and keep the healthcare
But commissioners, hearing the drumbeat of the February 2010 primary
growing louder, are now saying the hike is yet another burden on
consumers already hurting in one of the worst economic downturns of our
Indeed, the county’s hike pushed Chicago’s overall sales tax to 10.25 percent, among the highest in the country.
In the Cook County suburbs, business owners say shoppers are fleeing to the collar counties for big-ticket purchases.
After Stroger successfully vetoed three previous measures to lower the
sales tax —and commissioners were unable to muster the 14 votes for an
override — suburban state lawmakers stepped in to push for a change in
Illinois law that lowered Cook County’s override threshold.
In November, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure lowering the
threshold to 11 votes out of 17, or a three-fifths majority, in line
with the voting rules of local governing bodies and even Congress.