Overriding veto key to county's economic health
Monday, May 18, 2009
Crain's Chicago Business
by Crain's Editorial Staff
Cook County commissioners should override County Board President
Todd Stroger's veto of a measure rolling back his recent sales tax hike.
Mustering the votes to do so will be hard. Overriding a veto requires
the votes of three-quarters of the board's 17 members, an
extraordinarily high threshold for a legislative body.
But overriding this veto is essential to Cook County's economic health and the integrity of its government.
The sales tax increase Mr. Stroger pushed through last year was
unnecessary, far exceeding the amount needed to fill a budget gap that
commissioners should have closed by cutting expenses. Now evidence is
emerging that the higher sales tax is hurting retail sales in Cook
As Steven R. Strahler reported in Crain's
and on ChicagoBusiness.com, recent data suggest that shoppers are
starting to cross the county line to escape the tax. In the months
since the tax hike took effect, some Cook County suburbs adjoining the
border have seen sharper retail sales declines than have nearby towns
on the other side of the line.
In a recession, county government should tighten its belt rather than
slap new burdens on struggling local businesses. But Mr. Stroger
clearly has no intention of streamlining a bureaucracy he uses to
provide jobs for friends, family and the occasional ex-con busboy. He
refuses even to freeze hiring during the downturn, much less cut staff
as other government agencies and countless businesses have done.
A vote to uphold the veto is a vote for an outmoded regime of
inefficiency and out-of-control spending that Cook County can no longer
afford. Overriding the veto would not only relieve retailers of the
burden of the tax hike but also force county officials to confront the
unsustainable expense structure created by the Stroger machine.
The outcome will depend on the votes of a small number of commissioners
who have taken Mr. Stroger's side in the tax hike dispute. While the
voting rules give them inordinate power, they should understand that
the responsibility is all theirs, too.
©2009 by Crain Communications Inc.