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Stroger to Taxpayers: Fork Over the Funds

By Kevin Robinson in News on Oct 19, 2007 5:40PM

2007_10_19.stroger.jpgCrook County Board President Todd Stroger unveiled his $3.2 billion budget Wednesday. Stroger has struggled to give the appearance that his government is small and fiscally responsible, eliminating about 735 positions over the last three fiscal years, and reducing 1,800 positions from this year's budget. Now he claims that bringing the county's tax take to $888 million by 2009 — by tripling the county sales tax and doubling gas and parking taxes — is necessary to cover cost increases and 1,130 new county jobs next year.

As part of his budget rollout, however, Stroger didn't mention that this plan includes spending 27 percent more on commissioners and their staffs, potentially costing the county nearly $1.8 million a year. "He's trying to induce some of the commissioners with some sweeteners, but I don't think it's going to work," Tony Peraica told the Tribune, adding that he will refuse any funding increases for his office. Stroger is also proposing increasing spending on the Bureau of Health by 9.4 percent and adding 690 new employees. Dr. Quentin Young, former medical director of Cook County Hospital called that move amateur night at the lunatic asylum. Young would like to see the county health system run by an independent board of trustees, "competently, transparently and without political interference."

That doesn't seem likely. The Cook County government is virtually paralyzed with infighting and political retribution. Things are so ugly, in fact, that Dr. Robert Simon, the head of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services challenged three commissioners to debate him over waste in the health care system. "He doesn't have to debate us — let him debate" the commission that proposed an independent oversight board, said Mike Quigley, one of the commissioners challenged to debate. One thing that county commissioners can agree on, however, is that they shouldn't be paying for bottled water.