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Devine takes turn knocking Stroger budget

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

It was Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine’s turn Friday to tell the county board why his office can’t live with the budget cuts President Todd Stroger has dictated.
“We convict people who take lives and injure people … because we have good prosecutors,” Devine said.
Without adequate salary and workload conditions for his prosecutors, he said, good attorneys would be forced out by law school debt and lured by high private sector salaries.
“We are in a process of cuts that I do believe jeopardize public safety,” Devine said.
Unlike other officials though, Devine seemed to enjoy support from several of the board commissioners, who pledged to try to restore some of the cuts to his office.
Peter Silvestri, Tony Peraica, Larry Suffredin, Tim Schneider, Forrest Claypool and Robert Steele all expressed sentiments that at least some cuts might be restored. Finance committee Chairman John Daley also committed to trying to broker some sort of compromise between Devine and Stroger.
Stroger did not attend the hearing and was criticized for not showing up to defend his position.
Stroger, however, did defend himself when reached later in the day.
“Everyone is going to complain about trying to cut their budget. But if you don’t do it, then the government doesn’t work,” said Stroger.
In perhaps a dig at Devine, who has refused to consider unpaid furlough days for his staff, Stroger noted that his management staff was taking furlough days.
Devine said because his staff already is paid less on average than public defenders and many assistant state’s attorneys already work overtime for free, he would not make them take time off without pay.
“No, I will not do it,” he said, to the thunderous applause of the spectators in the county board room, many of whom work for Devine.
Devine’s operating budget in 2006 was $96.1 million. He initially wanted a budget of $101 million for 2007.
He said Friday he can live with a budget of about $8.6 million less than that, or $92.4 million, a reduction of 3.9 percent from last year’s $96.1 million.
Stroger’s staff has said Devine must live with $86.6 million, a reduction of 10 percent from last year.

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