Friday, October 13, 2017

Balancing the budget; what will we cut?

It will be interesting to see just how Cook County government manages to balance out their budget for the upcoming fiscal year; what with the fact they now have a $200 million hole.

PRECKWINKLE: Looking for pop tax alternative
That is the amount of money the county would have expected to receive from the soon-to-be defunct pop tax, the penny-per-ounce charge on purchases of pop and other sweetened drinks.

AFTER NOV. 30, that tax won’t exist. So when the new fiscal year begins Dec. 1, there’s going to be a short-fall in anticipated revenue.

Are we merely going to see the county try to concoct some sort of alternative tax to replace the revenue they were expecting to get from the pop drinkers of the Chicago area? Or are we going to get some county agencies and programs get their funding levels cut to the point where essential services will be slashed?

County board President Toni Preckwinkle hinted throughout the barrage of propaganda put out by the American Beverage Association against the pop tax that health care services the county provides would suffer.

But Cook County Board members largely were not swayed by such arguments. In voting overwhelmingly to repeal the same pop tax that many of them voted last year to implement, they called Preckwinkle’s bluff.
TOBOLSKI: Eager to slash Cook budget

THEY’RE GAMBLING THAT there really is enough “fat” in government budgets that things can be cut without impacting essential services.

Either that, or they simply don’t care, or consider those services to be essential to them. They may just not care about the kind of people who actually have to rely on Cook County-funded services to maintain their health.

That certainly was the sentiment of county Commissioner Jeffery Tobolski, R-McCook, who earlier this week said he looks forward to cutting the county budget. “What we have (in revenue) is what we have to work with,” he said. “There are some tough decisions that have to be made.”
SUFFREDIN: Fears future tax hikes

Of course, the counter-point to that view was expressed by Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston, who was one of two commissioners (the other being Jerry “the Iceman” Butler, D-Chicago) to vote against repealing the pop tax.

IN A STATEMENT he issued following the Cook County Board’s vote on Wednesday, he pointed out that one part of the pop tax was a promise that Cook County government wouldn’t consider raising any more taxes until at least 2020.

A move he said would have provided significant benefits to people living in the county. Now, they could face whatever alternate tax hike county officials concoct in their minds to try to make up for the revenue lost from the pop tax, which is necessary because, he claims, Illinois government owes Cook County some $186 million in reimbursements it hasn't been making -- which accounts for nearly the entire hole in the county budget.

In my mind, different taxes is a scary thought – one far more onerous than the roughly 20 cents extra I was paying any time I purchased a bottle of Coca-Cola (something I indulge in maybe twice a week).
BUTLER: Voted for pop tax AND against repeal

So now, county officials have the rest of October and November to figure out how to put together a budget that doesn’t leave Cook County government in serious debt come Nov. 30, 2018.

I KNOW COOK County Treasurer Maria Pappas said she offered up her portion of the county budget with a 10 percent cut in everything, and expects she’s now going to have to slash every line-item in her budget by another 2 percent.

Whether enough other officials are capable of taking such a hardline approach is questionable – I suspect many are trying to figure out what alternate item could be taxed. Of course, it has to be something that most people would feel wouldn’t impact them.
Anti-taxer mailings to pressure county commissioners continue, as now the activist-types want to ensure their desired spending cuts get imposed when the Cook County Board approves its 2018 budget sometime next month
Perhaps that is why some have suggested that the medical marijuana purchases now becoming common in parts of our state are a more acceptable item to tax.

It seems the image some people have of “deadheads” being forced to pay up is more acceptable to them than themselves having to pay whenever they buy a bottle of that beverage whose original recipe included a jolt from the coca leaf. Why else would we call it “Coke?”


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