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Suffredin's Statement on 2005 Budget Process

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Special to

I want to protect Cook County taxpayers from needless tax increases. The effort to cut the proposed budget without jeopardizing services is possible if we do some planning. The failure of President Stroger to fulfill his statutory obligation of presenting a budget in a timely manner points up the total lack of planning going on at the County. Real planning will lead to truth in budgeting, which will allow all citizens to know what County Government actually costs and how tax dollars are spent.

In recent days, the President has announced an undocumented deficit of $252 million and further undocumented budget cuts to lower the deficit to $146 million. Where is the detail?! And what is his solution to the phantom deficits? More taxes that hurt our citizens; and more taxes that weaken our County.

All of this, while wasting precious County assets at the jail and hospital by not doing any planning. A year ago I proposed a solution to the staffing issue at the jail through a redirection of existing resources. The President opposed it. Now we are before a federal judge without a plan to deal with proper staffing. Over a year ago, I proposed constructive reuse plans for the Old County Hospital that would save the County money. The President opposed it, now we are stalled without a plan.

I, along with other Commissioners, will oppose any County proposed tax increases because they are not needed. Today we propose some solid planning ideas that will more appropriately manage County government without any tax increase.

County Government should not be overtaxing its citizens. County budgets have continued to rise while there has been an annual fund surplus for the last four years. In addition, the budgets have fully funded the salaries, cost-of-living-adjustment increases and benefits of nearly 1000 jobs that have not been and will never be filled. These facts have denied County taxpayers an efficient government.

There is no 2005 budget proposal from the President. The budget year begins tomorrow. What kind of planning is that?

Our proposals will require the County Board to be more vigilant in monitoring the spending habits of the County. Also, County managers will be required to manage more effectively by meeting tighter budgeted numbers.

A year ago I said "our opponents are experts in the use of hyperbole to scare employees and those in need". This is still the case and it is unnecessary. Hopefully there will be a positive public discussion of a thoughtful budget. This spirited discussion should both improve the quality of service Cook County provides its citizens and prevent higher taxes. But this discussion can't begin until the President presents a budget!

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