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Preckwinkle considering 1% Cook County sales tax increase

Monday, June 22, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times
by Stefano Esposito


Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks to the City Club of Chicago in January 2015. | Sun-Times file photo

When it was a bad thing, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle referred to it as the “Stroger sales tax.”

Now, Preckwinkle is considering bringing back a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase that helped her defeat her predecessor, Todd Stroger.

“She has very few options, and I certainly wouldn’t be in favor of a property tax increase,” Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy told the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday.

Murphy said Preckwinkle approached her about the possibility of raising the sales tax within the last 10 days.

“One of the things she mentioned specifically was [funding] the pensions,” Murphy said, adding that she would support Preckwinkle’s proposal. Preckwinkle also talked about the need to generate money for the county’s health system and public safety, Murphy said.

Murphy said commissioners haven’t yet discussed Preckwinkle’s proposal as a group but likely would do so early next week during committee meetings.

If there were enough votes for raising the sales tax, the change would likely go into effect in 2016, Murphy said.

Frank Shuftan, a Preckwinkle spokesman, wouldn’t confirm that the president is considering a penny sales tax increase.

“President Preckwinkle has consistently said that FY16 will be a particularly challenging budget year for a number of reasons, not least of which is the failure of Springfield to act on the County’s proposed pension legislation,” Shuftan said in an emailed statement. “Our finance team is hard at work looking at a number of scenarios for coping with this difficult situation, and we expect to present a plan to our Board of Commissioners shortly.”

Back in 2008, then-President Stroger championed — and won the votes from a majority of county commissioners for — a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase that pushed Chicago’s overall sales tax to 10.25 percent. Stroger and others argued that the increase was needed to plug a budget hole and keep the doors open at the county’s public health system.

When Preckwinkle ran against Stroger in 2010, she pledged to repeal the sales tax increase, and easily won the board presidency.

“. . . I’ll repeal the whole Stroger sales tax. You’ve earned your pennies. I’ll save them for you,” she said in one of her TV ads.

The last portion of the sales tax was rolled back at the beginning of 2013.


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