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Cook County Board must Reject New Taxes

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Daily Southtown

Cook County Board President John Stroger's proposal for tax increases of about $60 million to help pay for higher spending in next year's budget is slated to come up for a vote Dec. 9.

In a display of independence rare for Cook County politics, three of Stroger's fellow Democrats on the county board are opposing the tax increases and, along with a pair of Republicans, have suggested an alternate budget that would cut spending from this year's level.

Freshman Commissioners Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) and Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) and veteran Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), along with Anthony Peraica (R-Riverside) and Greg Goslin (R-Glenview), have proposed an alternative budget that would require no new taxes and could enable the county to abate some of its existing property tax levy.

Nine votes are needed to pass the budget. Stroger may already have enough votes to get his proposal passed, but the opposition group thinks it can prevail if it can persuade one regular Democrat to switch sides.

The opposition group believes it has the votes of Republican Commissioners Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), Carl Hansen (R-Mount Prospect) and Elizabeth Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park).

Two crucial votes that Stroger is counting on will be those of Commissioners Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) and Deborah Sims (D-Chicago), whose district extends into the Southland. We can understand their loyalty to Stroger and the political debt they feel they owe him for his past support. But there comes a time when elected officials need to put the interests of the voters ahead of the interests of their party. We hope Murphy and Sims will understand that and vote against the new taxes.

Stroger wants to raise the county sales tax from 0.75 percent to 1 percent and create a new tax on leases of 4 percent. Stroger says the tax increases are needed to pay for health coverage for county workers and for wage increases provided for in their contracts.

But Suffredin, Peraica and the others make a persuasive argument that the county can cut in half the $350 million in carryover funds and appropriations for vacant jobs that Stroger has included in his spending plan. Those moves would allow the board to avoid the new taxes.

They also are proposing a 2 percent cut in 2004 spending from this year's levels. They say that additional step would allow the county to abate property taxes.

Suffredin and Peraica told the Daily Southtown editorial board Monday that the lease tax would be especially onerous for Southland businesses that have competitors in nearby Indiana and Will County. We've made that argument ourselves and believe the county commissioners who represent this area should pay close attention to the plight of businesses here. Murphy and Sims, in particular, need to recognize what a serious threat the new taxes would pose to businesses in the districts they represent.

Party loyalty is understandable and sometimes

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