December 2, 2009
The Civic Federation commends the Cook County Board for voting 12-5 to roll back half of last year’s one percentage point sales tax hike and for overriding President Todd Stroger’s veto. The Federation considers this a victory for overburdened County taxpayers and for the County businesses that have suffered as a result of the tax.
The Civic Federation has long opposed the unnecessary sales tax increase and has repeatedly called for its repeal, most recently in our analysis of the FY2010 proposed County budget.
The reduction will go into effect on July 1, 2010 and will therefore mainly affect the County’s FY2011 budget. The tax cut will reduce revenue for the current FY2010 budget by $32 million, which was accounted for in the budget approved by County Commissioners two weeks ago.
The Civic Federation disputes the contention that the sales tax rollback will have to mean catastrophic cuts to the County Health System. The Bureau of Health has already reduced its dependence on County funding by $74 million and is restructuring its staffing resources. The Civic Federation is confident that there are many other areas where the County can cut back and operate more efficiently to prevent any undue burden on the Health System. Only if Cook County Commissioners choose to make the Cook County Health System a non-priority would cuts need to be directed there.
The tax rollback likely would not have happened if it were not for a recently-enacted state law reducing the margin needed by the County Board to override a presidential veto from four-fifths to three-fifths. The four-fifths requirement is almost unheard of in American democracy. More usual is the three-fifths threshold used by the federal and many local governments. Such a high veto threshold gave the County Board President extraordinary power to ignore the wishes of the commissioners.
The Civic Federation has supported reducing the Cook County veto override threshold for many years. The Cook County Cost Control Task Force Report the Federation wrote in cooperation with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in 2001 recommended the override vote be lowered to level the playing field between the legislative and executive branches of Cook County government. The Civic Federation commends the General Assembly and Governor Quinn for restoring balanced democracy to Cook County.