Only a year ago, County Board President Todd Stroger was lopping bodies from the county payroll and closing health clinics as a way to heal a gaping budget deficit.Making a lean, mean functional machine seems impossible for politicians and bureaucrats. When you're in the government, making more government is much more palitable to your colleagues, but it means more taxes to the common man with even more bureaucracy. 1000 "new jobs" are now on their way with all of the overhead inherent to new hires, re-training of personnel, and "streamlining processes."
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The new tax increase, which confers the dubious honor on Chicago of having the highest sales tax -- 10.25 percent -- of any major U.S. city, will add about $426 million annually to the county's coffers.
But Stroger's victory was not complete.
Stroger settled for a smaller sales-tax increase than he originally sought. He also agreed to place the Health Services Bureau under some form of outside control for three years. Critics also say in the process, which was often marred by bitter personal attacks, that Stroger lost some of his credibility as a manager by raising taxes rather than instituting reforms.
"As a result of a lack of a reasonable financial plan we're going to raise taxes and jeopardize the economic vitality of the Chicago region," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a fiscal watchdog group.
Msall said the county's increase is four times greater than the sales-tax increase granted to the CTA, which agreed to a series of "comprehensive and historic" reforms.
"There is no reform tied to this," said Msall. "There is nothing here the taxpayers can look forward to. ... Nothing in this budget that gives the Civic Federation confidence that the millions collected [under the tax increases] are going to be spent any differently than the other $3 billion in the budget."
Jerry Roper, president and chief executive officer of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, said the sales-tax increase "impacts our jobs climate and makes our region more expensive and less competitive as our country lies on the brink of recession."
This "fix" has happened locally here in Chicago and is now law. Could this outcome foreshadow the impact of some of the currently proposed national healthcare reform strategies?
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