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So, what’s really going on?

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007

* The response to this proposal has been swift and loud…

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger called for a special meeting of the County Board Tuesday to consider a sales tax increase that would push the sales tax in Chicago to 11 percent — the highest in the country.

The County Board will meet October 1st — this coming Monday — immediately after a Finance Committee public hearing on a proposal to raise the Cook County’s portion of the sales tax by two percent.

Stroger’s office will not say whether he supports the increase, but has said some tax increase is likely. He has said he wants to find out what taxes board members will support before he releases his budget proposal in October.

Various media reports have put Cook County’s defict at between $300 million and $750 million (Commissioner Larry Suffredin’s guesstimate).

* More background

Chicago shoppers now pay 9 percent in sales tax, with 5 percent going to the state, 2.25 percent going to the city, 1 percent going to the Regional Transportation Authority and 0.75 percent to Cook County. Additionally, downtown diners pay a 1 percent food-and-beverage tax levied by the agency that runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier. If the county raised its sales tax by 2 percentage points, those diners would see a total 12 percent tax on their tabs.

The County Board has not raised its portion of the sales tax since it was first approved in 1992.

Mayor Daley raised the city’s sales tax a couple of years ago and the General Assembly is now debating legislation to raise it again by 0.25 percent in the city and Cook County to help bail out public transit.

* But it seems doubtful that Stroger will get his full 2 point hike, or that he even wants it. The tax would raise a billion dollars and the deficit isn’t that high (or even a third that high, depending whose figures you use)…

There’s still general disbelief Stroger could find a majority on the board willing to go along with such a huge tax increase. But now commissioners are starting to believe that a smaller sales tax hike could emerge from Monday’s meeting, sort of a bait-and-switch “compromise.”

* And

By beating back a Draconian 2-point tax increase, Stroger, or one of his loyal commissioners, might be able to ride in on a white horse and “rein in” the tax increase to a “mere” 0.25 percentage point increase or 0.5 point increase — appearing fiscally responsible while still giving the county some much-needed revenue, some commissioners speculate.

* The vote isn’t shaping up too well for the full two-point hike, either…

Three Democrats — Suffredin, Claypool and Quigley — have announced their opposition to tax hike, and the five Republicans on the board are expected to follow suit. That means that every other board member would have to vote for it.

* But not all of the remaining commissioners are on board…

Commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), a possible swing vote on the 17-member board, said Monday he is leaning strongly against a sales tax increase. […]

Maldonado said he would be more in favor of utility taxes that have been introduced by Commissioner William Beavers (D-Chicago), if senior citizens were exempted.

* Regardless, editorial writers are all in a huff

A government whose house is not in order hasn’t earned the public’s trust. And without that trust, that government can’t ask taxpayers for more money.

* This idea looks a whole lot like Gov. Blagojevich’s outrageously huge gross receipts tax. Blagojevich’s big mistake was not coming back with a smaller, more “acceptable” tax hike. I’m guessing Stroger will do what Blagojevich did not, probably combined down the road with more cuts.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 8:40 am:

    Is this proposed hike for the city or all of cook county. I can easily stop shopping at Woodfield area na dgo to the Stratford area if they raise all of cook while many city dwellers are pretty much stuck.

  2. - BIG R.PH. - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 8:42 am:

    More Tax & Spend from the Liberal Utopia that is Chicago. One would think that after all these years of Democrat control there would be no problems.

    Does the RTA really need 50 empty buses per hour running down Michigan Ave?

    Perhaps a change in leadership to the other side combined with a TRUE audit of wasteful spending would lead to a tax cut which would lead to more $’s being spent in the city which would lead to higher revenues.

    It works every time that it’s tried.

  3. - Ghost - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 8:42 am:

    This seems like it would harm growth overall. Chicago needs to grow and reinvent itself. At the present it is stagnating and quandering its history. It used to comepte with New York for reputation and culture…now it is falling back to its roots of slaughterhouses and decay.

  4. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 8:46 am:

    We knew this fall was going to be about pols, state, county, local making a big push to extract more money from us.

    But since Cook County’s mostly Dem voters tend to vote the same people into office year after year after year, regardless of whether they take steps towards fiscal responsibility or not, our Cook County pols don’t have to summon up much courage to take another run on our wallets.

    Wonder if the RTA tax, another boondoggle, or the Cook County tax will get passed first. We are so pluckable.

    And speaking of cuts, did Stroger ever get rid of that hospital with all the patronage employees he was supposedly waiting for permission from the state to close down. Somehow, I doubt it. Did he ever turn the Juvenile Center, where his patronage employees routinely mistreated the kids, over to the chief judge.

    As we ponder this next Cook County run on our wallets, we shouldn’t assume that those reforms Stroger was trumpeting ever actually happened.

  5. - Dan a Voter - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 8:53 am:

    Rich, no tid bits about how King Blago and family got booed out at Wrigley Field while throwing out a first pitch.

  6. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 9:04 am:

    Almost all politicians get booed at Chicago sporting events. That ain’t news.

  7. - Truthful James - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 9:12 am:

    Rich –

    Good to have you back. Why can’t you let Paul’s postings be open for comments?

    Of course, the propsoed Cook County sales tax increase is obscene. Did we expect anything else?

    The County takes it both ways — inflatioanry increases in the price of products being taxed and the increase in the rate itself. The purchaser gets it one way, in the end.

    The seller gets it as well. There will now be enough difference in the big ticket items to send the consumer fleeing to the collar counties and even to Indiana.

    But we see nothing from the loyal opposition — the elleged Cook County Republican Party.

    And the property taxes as well. For a shopping center, the average per square foot, outside of the Mag Mile and other major upscale places was hovering around $4.75 per sq.ft. In the northern quadrant the curent reassessment is likely to reach $7.50 to $8.50. The ma and pa tenants can’t afford it. For a 600 sq.ft. store that’s an additional $100 per month rent. Look around at all the vacant spaces in the small storefronts.

    Then look at the lard on top of the pork in the County. It should not be the employer of last resort, but it is. Those make work jobs are necessary to provide second jobs to the party faithful and tithes to the Machine.

  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 9:13 am:

    ===Why can’t you let Paul’s postings be open for comments?===

    Because the last time I took a few days off, commenters went way over the line. Paul doesn’t have time to monitor the blog, and I don’t want to deal with it when I’m trying to decompress.

  9. - JGatz - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 9:32 am:

    The door has been opened in the southside for a new commissioner to emerge to challenge Joan Murphy. For someone whose district borders Will County and Indiana, proposing a tax increase that will hurt already fledgling business development down there is not smart. Go down Torrence Avenue in Lansing and see strip mall after strip mall being built and then being emptied. Same thing in places like Chicago Heights.

    I think its time for some forward thinkers to come onto the Board with only an inkling of common sense. The county would run much better.

  10. - Ravenswood Right Winger - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 9:46 am:

    All those posters who comment here that they are so glad that they voted for Todd instead of Peraica, let’s hear from ya!

  11. - Say WHAT? - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 10:57 am:

    Home for sale in Cook County - CHEAP! Cannot afford taxes on our “affordable home”. Our taxes (monthly) are more than the house payment. CERTAIN Cook County government officials need to care about constituents and stop padding their wallets, and supplying family members with high paying jobs at our expense. Our family can afford to leave. Sadly, many cannot. I feel sorry for seniors, disabled,and for those suffering sudden job loss. Some companies in southern Cook have closed down and left workers without pay, without benefits, and their retirement has disappeared. They will receive none of the benefits they have paid into all their years at the company. At 55 years of age, where are you going to go in an area with high unemployment and few companies left to work for? Due to high taxes many businesses have left the area. One man I know had been with the company since his teen years. ALL HIS RETIREMENT GONE in a moment, company closed, nobody there to talk to, no explanation - NADA. Now the county wants to charge more tax for the priviledge of shopping here??? My family deserves better. I’m not going to feed the monster with my tax dollars. Continuing to do so would be poor stewardship.

  12. - Hugh - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 11:16 am:

    From the Daily Herald:

    “In a surprise move, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has scheduled an emergency board meeting for next Monday, Oct. 1 — the same day legally required hearings on the tax increase are scheduled.

    Procedurally, that means that if nine commissioners vote for the tax, the board could have hearings on the tax and enact it all in the same day.”

    After tomorrow Thursday it shouldn’t be a mystery whether Stroger plans to call a vote on sales tax increase at Monday’s emergency Board meeting, because we citizens of Illinois are due an agenda posted outside the Board room in the County bldg 2 business days before the meeting. The sales tax increase will either be on the agenda or it won’t.

  13. - Truthful James - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 11:16 am:

    Say WHAT?

    You mean you have not been seduced by Assessor Houlihan’s drug of a Seven Percent Solution? My home’s AV just jumped 28%

    The big laugh, of course is that as the Assessor kept dropping the de facto valuations from the required 16% to the actual 10%, the State kept raising the Equalization Factor — now above 2.8. The Assessor can’t increase his de facto ratios to more than 11.7% or the Equalized Assesed Valuation (on which your taxes are paid will go above the 33 1/3 percent that is common in the collar counties.

    In the meantime, of course, the 38% AV ratio on the commercial property, multiplied by the Equalization Factor turns out to be 107%, so that businesses are being taxed at more than their market Value in Cook County, while the Collars are being taxed at 33 1/3 percent of their Estimated Market Value

    The State uses one year old Sales to derive the equalization factor to bring the Assessed Valuations of each County to 33 1/3 percent.

    The collars basically have a 1.0 Equalization Factor.

    The 2.83 shows what a crooked wheel Cook County is running.

    He is locked in.

  14. - Independent - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 11:21 am:

    I used to read Vanilla Man’s gloom and doom posts and think “Come on, it’s not that bad”. Now after the Summer of Love between the Gov. and GA, witnessing Daley once again as a power-crazed incoherent fool, and another stupid tax proposed by Cook County commissioners I believe it may be that bad.

    If we don’t elect more ethical, innovative leaders at the state, county, and municipal levels Illinois is in big trouble.

  15. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 11:27 am:

    For those ridiculing the residents of Cook County about voting in Dems, it’s not like the Cook County GOP has given us much choice. Take Peraica (please, and you can keep him), I’m not voting for an anti-gay buffoon, even for the lowliest of political jobs (like say Water Reclamation District). Why can’t the IL GOP create a special GOP for Cook County that is not anti-gay, that is, in fact, friendly to gays? And one that’s pro-choice ro at least agnostic on the subject of choice? And maybe pro separation of Church and state? Basically, I’d like a Democratic party on the whole “values” junk, but devoted to honest, transparent, efficient government. If the GOP gave me that choice, I would vote for it in local elections. Heck I voted for Judy twice for Treasurer and I voted for O’Malley at least once when he was States Attorney.

  16. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 12:52 pm:

    Is this really a ploy to force th eCTA issue onto the state? I don’t think the board would ever reject a tax hike, though.

    As for Cook COunty taxes, i believe they are higher in Dupage.

  17. - Captain America - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 1:17 pm:

    Stroger has no crediblity with the general public/electorate on reforming County government,managing County government efficiently,on taxes and fiscal policy, or any other issue for that matter. Although the County does need additional revenue to fulfill its mission, I applaud the resistance being led by the reform trumvirate on the Board. I expect the County to enact a much smaller sales tax increase than 2%.

  18. - Anon - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 3:54 pm:

    The people of Cook County should first see if the asserted deficit even exists before even thinking of a tax increase.

    Remember that a couple of years ago Stroger Sr. said there was a $200 million deficit, and there had to be a tax increase. Once the premise of the existence of a deficit was challenged by Peraica, Claypool and others, that deficit went > and was gone, with a balanced budget passed after trimming more waste.

    In this case, no one on Todd Stroger’s staff has released the numbers that prove the existence of ANY deficit, much less the need for the sales tax increase. When they do (actually, in the Todd Stroger Administration, it’s more like IF they ever do) those numbers should be carefully vetted - sadly, this leadership has already proven that one must check whatever they say.

  19. - One_Mcmad - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 4:02 pm:

    With all of the corruption in Cook County, misuse of government funds, state employees, ect., a rax increase is not the answer.

    Eliminating the corruption tax in Cook County is the answer:

    Like the Presidents’ hiring of his cousin as Chief Financial Office. How has the watchdog groups allowed this to sneak through the cracks?

    Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County and her use of state employees (who are employed as Investigators for the Inspector General’s Office) as Chauffers and Security guards. There is one investigator assigned to her everyday who drives her around and there are other investigators who follow her around and act as Security and on and on and on.

    Also in a lawsuit pending in the Circuit Court against Dorothy Brown, it alleges misuse of government funds for improper purposes and more corruption. In this very same lawsuit, Dorothy Brown is not being represented by the State’s Attorney, who represents County officials in all lawsuits, but she is represented by a prominent lawfirm due to the State’s Attorneys’ conflicts of interest in representing her. The lawfirm is paid a separate fee from the State’s Attorney.

    This is the corruption tax that we the tax payors of Cook County have to eat and now Todd Stroger wants to raise the sales tax—-go figure, let the people pay more!

  20. - PC - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 4:54 pm:

    What is with people harping on empty buses? I certainly don’t see very many. The average CTA bus carries 43 passengers in an average hour.

  21. - FED UP - Wednesday, Sep 26, 07 @ 5:35 pm:

    This is what happens when people blindly vote for who there told by the dem machine. Yes it is also the republcans fault for not putting credible canadates on the ballot. There is no reason for toddy or any other commisioner to worry about raising taxes every year or two they are part of the machine and all that matters is patronage jobs to be handed out. Crook co gets what it deserves corrupt politicans raising taxes on the ignorant masses that elected them. Indiana is close and the taxes are low.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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