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County board seeks budget compromise

Thursday, December 18, 2003
Pioneer Press
by Peter Nolan

Cook County board members are working behind the scenes to build consensus for a 2004 budget of nearly $3 billion to fund county government for another year. The board appears to be divided down the middle on whether to raise taxes.

For the first time in memory, a County Board President, John Stroger, has been unable to muster a majority of votes for his budget proposal which includes an increase in the county sales tax and a 4 percent lease tax on equipment including cars and computers.

Stroger was forced to postpone a vote on the budget Tuesday when he reportedly was one vote short of the nine-member majority needed to pass the budget.

"He didn't have the votes for the taxes," said Larry Suffredin, D-14th, of Evanston. "We believe the budget will be reconfigured and the taxes taken out."

"He didn't have the votes for the taxes," said Larry Suffredin, D-14th, of Evanston. "We believe the budget will be reconfigured and the taxes taken out."

Suffredin is one of a bipartisan group of legislators who oppose new taxes this year and want to put some restraints on spending.

Suffredin has proposed a plan to cut last year's budget by 2 percent. He believes this can be done without jeopardizing jobs or services because of money that is hidden in the budget and never spent.

"County budgets have continued to rise while there's been an annual fund surplus of $200 million over the last three years," Suffredin said.

Cook County Commissioner Gregg Goslin, R-14th, of Glenview also opposes any tax increases. Goslin wants to hold spending at the 2003 budget level.

"I heard they want to substitute a dollar a pack increase in the cigarette tax for the lease tax," Goslin said. "They think they can get another vote. I won't support it. It's been proven that sin taxes drive down consumption and don't do what they're supposed to do."

Commissioner John Daley, D-11th, of Chicago, the chairman of the board's finance committee, said there would have to be a public hearing before the board could consider a cigarette tax.



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