Preckwinkle's concessions leave budget $1.3 million short

October 30, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan

(Caroline O'Donovan)

Cook County budget hearings are ongoing as commissioners move toward a vote on Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s proposal.

“Not everybody’s going to like what we do,” said 5th District Commissioner Deborah Sims.

Despite contention over Preckwinkle’s proposed violence tax, conversation and cooperation have been major themes for both the President and the commissioners.

Citing concern among the commissioners about the health of small businesses, Preckwinkle has reworded a proposed video-gaming ordinance to focus on casino-owned machines rather than those in small bars and local taverns.

Previously, the ordinance would have cost all video machine owners $800 a year. The new, “two-tiered” version will cost gambling machine owners $1,000 per machine. Owners of smaller devices like video poker machines will only be charged $200.

In addition, the start date for the video gambling tax has been pushed back from April 1 to June 1. Commissioner John Fritchey says the delay will make it easier to coordinate with the state legislature, and will also allow the county time to revise the ordinance should a major gambling expansion take place.

“The fact of the matter is if a casino is located in the city of Chicago, there’s gonna be social costs,” Fritchey said, “There’s gonna be law enforcement issues, there’s gonna be social service issues -- many of those are not born by the city but by the county.”

The county says these changes will reduce revenue by $100,000. That’s in addition to changes to the proposed Buy Local Tax, announced Monday, that would reduce revenue by $1.3 million.

Preckwinkle reduced the number of purchases that would be affected by the new tax to out-of-county items costing more than $3,500. Previously, it would have included all items costing more than $2,500. The county acknowledged that they will have to replace that total of $1.3 million with revenue from elsewhere.

President Preckwinkle declined to comment on the fate of the new firearm and ammunition taxes she has proposed. Commissioner Fritchey proposed an alternate plan over the weekend that would use county hospital money to fund a gun court and a safety fund  but forgo any new taxes.

Preckwinkle says she said she, Fritchey and the other commissioners  are working towards an agreement that should be completed by Friday.