Editorial: Which Cook County pols will keep their word and nix the Toni Tax?
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Chicago Tribune by Editorial Board
"I oppose raising taxes. As Cook County Commissioner, I continue to remain vigilant in my effort to reform tax and fee measures wherever possible. As we continue to move reform measures forward there is still more to be done to consolidate and reduce the size of county government."
— Elizabeth Doody Gorman's response to the Tribune Editorial Board's 2014 general election questionnaire.
Taxpayers may learn Wednesday which members of the Cook County Board are good for their word. That's when commissioners are scheduled to vote on Board President Toni Preckwinkle's effort to raise the county sales tax, with Chicago's rate leaping to an uncompetitive 10.25 percent. The outcome could be close, so we'll focus on six board members who may cast the decisive votes: Luis Arroyo Jr., Elizabeth Doody Gorman, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, Jeffrey Tobolski, Stanley Moore and Peter Silvestri.
•Arroyo is a new board member who will define his future with this first major tax increase vote. Last fall we asked candidates, "If faced in future budget debates with cutting the county's payroll or raising taxes, which one will you choose, and why?" Arroyo: "The growth of middle management and bureaucracy across Cook County government must be examined for its effectiveness and cost savings. This includes job consolidations and streamlining of services or resources at all levels, bureaus and departments of county government." Amen. Preckwinkle's people think he'll cave to their lobbying. But if he was honest with voters, Arroyo is a no.
•We were stunned July 1 when Gorman voted to advance the Toni Tax, which would mirror the 1-percentage-point increase that former President Todd Stroger championed — and that Gorman helped eliminate. She had railed at how Stroger's tax was gutting businesses in her district, which abuts a slew of collar county suburbs. Had Gorman since gone native at the tax-happy County Building? Or, would she remember why suburban voters put her where she is?
Gorman told us Wednesday that she voted to advance the measure to echo Preckwinkle's concerns about county pension debt. But Gorman assured us she will vote against the Toni Tax. "Of course I oppose it. There's no way I would be 1 of 9 yeses." With this vote Gorman can prove that she is, as her website says, "Representing the western edge of Cook County" — not representing retailers in DuPage and Will counties who would feast on customers fleeing Cook taxes.
•Garcia has political ambitions and the prospect of higher offices. But he paid dearly during his failed Chicago mayoral run for a long-ago vote to raise property taxes. Voting now to raise the regressive sales tax, which would damage the poor Latino families and struggling small business operators he represents, would be even harder to defend in future campaigns. From his 2010 Tribune questionnaire, Garcia's stated philosophy on tax hikes: "I do not endorse raising taxes without insuring that all possible streamlining of services has been planned and is being implemented." Commissioner, you know Cook County can't make that boast. Your own words should make you a no.
•Tobolski wrote in a Sun-Times op-ed that he'll vote to raise the sales tax. We hope voters remind Tobolski of his prior insistence that Cook taxes were "killing our businesses." Under the label "Lowering Taxes," his website still features his 2010 pledge that, "... I understand the burden that excessive taxes can have on families and businesses. ... While on the County Board, I will work to: Roll back the Cook County Sales tax increase that is currently the highest in the nation." Imagine the delight of his future foes in this west suburban swing district, much of it impoverished, if Tobolski now votes to reimpose the sales tax increase he so consistently deplored as ruinous.
• This also will be a career-defining vote for Moore, whose district includes many poor communities. As we wrote last week, Moore — like board members Deborah Sims and Joan Patricia Murphy — evidently enjoys driving past suburban storefronts empty because shoppers have fled for Will and other lower-tax counties.
•Backers of the tax hike have counted on a yes vote from Silvestri. And, like Gorman, he voted to advance the measure last week. But Silvestri assures us he's now a rock-solid no vote. That would be consistent with his answer to our questionnaire: "Although we have made great strides in cutting the payroll, I still would choose looking for ways to cut payroll over raising taxes to fill budget gaps."
The list of likely tax hike opponents also includes Richard Boykin, Larry Suffredin, Bridget Gainer, Gregg Goslin, John Fritchey and Timothy Schneider. If they share an alternate agenda, it's to finally consolidate, restructure and modernize this 19th-century government.
This head count suggests that, if no opponents flinch, the tax increase vote will fail. And we aren't counting on no votes from long-time wafflers such as Robert Steele, whose district swarms with Chicago retailers already crushed by high taxes, or Sims, even though she answered our tax question this way: "I believe through attrition and fees we will be able to balance the budget."
But projections aren't certainties; Sims is notorious in County Building lore for
co-sponsoring a rollback of Stroger's sales tax — and then voting to keep it intact.
At stake: almost a half-billion dollars a year from the pockets of Cook taxpayers.
Unless those shoppers, and the employers they now patronize, choose to walk away from one of the nation's highest sales taxes.
Copyright © 2015,
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