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Cook County Sales Tax Hike, New Tax Causes Board Debate

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Business leaders flocked to the Cook County Board meeting Wednesday to protest a proposal for a quarter-percent sales tax increase and a new 4 percent tax on rentals and leases, while health-care officials showed up in droves to support it.

Dr. Larry Goodman, president of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, backed the plan, saying it keeps funding for health care stable.

When Cathy Devine, president of Chicago's St. Anthony Hospital, voiced similar sentiments, Commissioner Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat, asked her if she would still support it if the same level of health care could be provided without a tax increase. When she avoided the question, Suffredin pressed her again until Commissioner Jerry Butler, a Chicago Democrat, intervened.

"For my honorable friend here (Suffredin) to dog her is out of order," he said.

Suffredin opposes the tax increase. Butler supports it.

Despite his admonition of Suffredin, Butler pressed a different witness - Archibald Fletcher, president of Fletcher Chicago, a movie supply rental company - who testified against the lease tax.

"Since you don't like the tax that would affect you, what tax would you like?" asked Butler. He later apologized and called it an unfair question.

Fletcher and other movie industry executives were the chief objectors to the lease tax, but they were not alone.

Larry Tardy, vice president of M&I First National Leasing Corp. in Oak Brook, said the lease tax would primarily hurt small businesses, who find leasing an affordable option to buying, allowing them to use capital for business expansion.

"The property lease tax is effectively an intervention by government to make one financing option less attractive," he said.



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