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Cash transfer a hidden county tax hike

Monday, February 12, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times

Of all the hey-wait-a-minute moments that have taken place at the Cook County Board in recent months, the latest jaw-dropping revelation sure ranks up there. Last week the board took $13 million from the Forest Preserve District, which it also runs, as repayment for a transfer of money the other way five years ago. They said they could do that without hurting operations because the district has a $66 million surplus.
We understand that the county is desperate for any money to plug a $500 million budget gap, and we can see how the priorities at the district might fall below the priorities in county government. But we're wondering, if the district is so flush with cash th at it can afford to hand over $13 million -- and indeed, has a $66 million surplus -- then why on earth did the County Board approve a 5 percent property tax increase for the district last year? Did they have a surplus the year before, when they approved an 8.5 percent tax hike, or in the several years before that, when they routinely approved tax increases?
Commissioner Mike Quigley got into a shouting match with board President Todd Stroger when he pointed out that taking money raised from a property tax increase at the Forest Preserve District and using it to pay for county operations is a "lateral tax hike." Stroger wouldn't concede the point, but Quigley is right.


Commissioners reject plan to levy tax on bullets
Cook County commissioners shot down an effort to slap a tax on ammunition sold here. Commissioner Roberto Maldonado pushed for a tax -- initially at 10 cents a bullet -- but it failed. Maldonado tried Friday to increase the tax to 50 cents a bullet, but no commissioner would even "second" his motion. Also killed was Maldonado's plan to slap a $100 tax on SUVs sold in the county. Passing a county committee Friday were new fees for towed vehicles and false-alarm calls to businesses in unincorporated Cook County, among other things. The full board is set to vote on a variety of fee hikes later this month.



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