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3,300 county jobs at risk if budget passes

Saturday, December 06, 2003
Special to
by Chinta Strausberg

In preparation of a showdown vote on his proposed FY 2004 $3 billion budget, Cook County Board President John H. Stroger JR. at week's end warned his foes to back off their alternative plan or risk placing thousands of employees in the unemployment lines.

And, if the don't scrap an alternative budget plan, Stroger it will result in eliminating more than 3,300 positions and deep cuts in providing health care fir indigent people.

But, Stroger is also locking horns with one of his own allies, Commissioner Earleen Collins, who refuses it sign on to his proposed budget until he adopts her alternative plan.

When contacted, Collins said, " Politics is the art of compromise through reasonable negotiation between sober men and women who have a commonality of purpose. "

Collins thanked the Claypool faction but believes this stand-off comes down to "man-ego" thing nobody wants budge…" she said.

"If I can bring some love and insanity to that whole process, in the end the people of Cook County will be beneficiary, " Collins said.

" The way I'm going and how and what I'm going to do it has be negotiated, and I think I have offered some compromise," Collins said refusing to reveal her proposals.

" In the end, I think John will accept those. I am offering him some alternatives to what we have," she said. Collins said she is holding her cards close to her chest and wont tell the media anything until Tuesday's showdown vote.

Stroger is not only battling one of his allies, Collins, but Commissioner Forrest Claypool , too, who has been a political thorn in the side.

Claypool's anti-administration alternative budget campaign, which calls for a two percent reduction over the 2003 operating expenses, is backed by Commissioner Larry Suffredin. Anthony Peraica, Michael Quigley and Gregg Goslin.

The showdown vote will be held 10am, Tuesday in the county boardroom.

Stroger warned that passing this proposal would result in a net effect of the Claypool plan would equal almost $184 million, would eliminate more than 3,300 positions, and at a minimum, would eliminate 1,400 vacant positions and result in 1,900 layoffs.

Stroger said this would result in a reduction of service cuts to taxpayers mostly in health and public safety.

However, Claypool told the Chicago Defender " That is not simply true. The Budget has over 2,000 unfilled positions, and the budget being proposed is $311 million of spending over and above of what was spent this past year, which is an extraordinary increase.

There are tens of millions of dollars created in all kinds of hidden in accounts that have no explanations other than to be kind of a cash stash, so it's clear that the budget is very padded.

It's clear that these tax increases are unnecessary and these taxes will fall unfortunately in the people who can least afford to pay.

Claypool said poor people live from paychecks to paycheck versus a rich person he says pays a far smaller percentage.

What Stroger is proposing, he said, " is a very regressive unfair tax and is not necessary when the county is rolling in cash," Claypool said.

However, Stroger said: " Claypool doesn't know what he's talking about.
We're not rolling in cash. He's saying that we have a fund (extra money) budget that we are presenting.

" We need the tax revenues because we entered into contracts with the union and we have to pay that amount of money which is less than any other contract that any other government has negotiated.

" We only gave a 2.7 percent increase in wages" Stroger said like other governments, their health care costs soared. The president said while his foes are trying to woo his supporters on the board, he accused Collins of "trying to talk like she doesn't represent the poor people who need the health care benefits…the jails…and the drug addicted people we seek to rehabilitate. "

Stroger said that is where his foes like Claypool " can say those things (being against taxes) because they're on the North Side with the rich type.

" If we can Comm. Collins to go along with us, we will pass our budget. None of us wants to over tax anybody, " Stroger said.

We have solidly eight votes that we're certain of, but, if Comm. Collins comes through, we'd have nine votes. Earleen's district is made up of the people who need the type of service that we render, " said Stroger.

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