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Stroger Hints At Possible Cook County Tax Increase
County Board President Says Tax Hike Would Be Best Way To Pay For Prosecutors' Pay Raises

Monday, July 16, 2007
by Mike Flannery

(CBS) CHICAGO Hold onto your pocketbook! Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said Tuesday that a Cook County tax increase would be the best way to pay for raises demanded by angry prosecutors.

As CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery explains, the issue had tempers at the County Building just as hot as the temperature.

Hundreds of angry assistant state's attorneys lined up in a hallway where temperatures may have exceeded 100 degrees hoping to see today's Cook County Board meeting.

Other county employees have gotten 12.75% in cost-of-living raises since 2004. Prosecutors have NOT.

Mike Golden prosecutes street gang crimes. He said, “We're more than $5,000 behind. And it means a lot, because our costs have gone up.”

State’s Attorney Richard Devine said, “They found a way to do it for all these other people. They should do it for assistant state's attorneys, too.”

Assistant state's attorneys have the vital role job of ensuring that murderers and other criminals are convicted in court. Fifty-two prosecutors have quit in recent months.

County Board President Todd Stroger promised prosecutors a big raise last winter, as soon as the county could sell some excess property. That sale now looks like it may not happen until next year. A few county commissioners are offering alternative sources of money.

Commissioner John Daley (D-11th), who chairs the board’s Finance Committee, said, “We have to fund this in the amount of about $46 million, that you will support new revenues.”

Stroger said, “If you don't want to cut any more services, then we're going to have to have more revenue. We're going to have to have some kind of tax increase. I don't know what kind.”

Assistant state’s attorney Erica Dillon, who prosecutes sex crimes, said, ”Fair is fair for everyone. And by us not receiving 12.75% it's an injustice not only to us, but to the victims that we represent.”

County Commissioners Mike Quigley and Larry Suffredin said they hope the County Board will vote on July 31 to give raises to prosecutors and other non-union employees.

But it's far from a done deal and talk of a possible tax increase sets the stage for another huge budget battle next winter between Todd Stroger and his critics on the board.

Talk of tax hikes and a huge protest made it a tough day for Stroger. It was his first full day back at work since his prostate cancer surgery last month.

Stroger spent several hours in his office, in addition to presiding over today's board meeting.

He told reporters that he kept his cancer diagnosis a secret prior to the election saying, "It's not the kind of thing voters need to know."

Stroger said, “If it was political, I'd say, ‘I had cancer. Somebody vote for me.’”

Assuming his doctors give him the go-ahead, Stroger says he plans to get back to playing basketball in about three weeks.

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