In an effort to solve some of Cook County’s financial problems, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is trying to convince commissioners to go along with a 1-cent increase in the sales tax.
Preckwinkle, who built her political legend by fighting to rollback a sales tax hike, now says such an increase is long overdue.
“It only gets worse the longer you postpone these decisions,” she said.
Preckwinkle defended her call for a sales tax increase, saying it’s time for Illinois politicians to get serious about resolving their pension related issues.
“Historically, over a long period of time, elected officials in Illinois wouldn’t address our problems and I’m trying,” Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle made rolling back the county’s earlier 1-cent increase in its sales tax the centerpiece of her successful 2010 campaign against then-incumbent Todd Stroger.
Stroger, who’s now running for the Water Reclamation Board, says he understands the Preckwinkle flip-flop.
“I knew it was something that the county needed. So to come back to it makes perfect sense,” Stroger said.
But north suburban Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who years ago voted for Stroger’s tax increase, will oppose Preckwinkle’s plan to re-impose it.
“I don’t believe we need it and the sales tax is the absolutely wrong tax,” Suffredin said. “It is a regressive tax that hurts our businesses that are on the borders of our county.”
“We don’t want them to lose business to another county simply because the sales tax has increased,” said Tanya Triche, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
But Preckwinkle can rely on some of the old “soldiers for Stroger.”
“I hated to see the sales tax go away before because I thought we would be in a better place today if we had not gotten rid of it,” said Commissioner Deborah Sims.
“If we don’t deal with our pension crisis now, we’re just creating more problems for us down the road and we’re passing off our problems to our children and our grandchildren, and I’m not prepared to do that,” Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle says she has met individually will all but one of the 17 Cook County commissioners. If she is able to get a sales tax increase for the county, it will leave one less revenue option for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also is trying to resolve a pension debt crisis.