As Republican Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri put it, the 2014 budget is one the board and county residents can be proud of.
“No taxes, no fees, no layoffs, no problem,” Silvestri said, during the final vote on the budget Friday.
All 17 Cook County commissioners voted to approve the $3.2 billion dollar spending plan for the next fiscal year. The budget came out balanced in the end, even though the county originally faced a $152 million dollar shortfall.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said filling that hole is mostly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The county is set to receive millions of dollars in federal reimbursements for expanding the county’s Medicaid system, known as CountyCare. Dr. Ramanathan Raju, head of the Cook County Health and Hospitals system, said it has already surpassed their goal of 115,000 applications for the program. As of the budget vote, Raju said the county had initiated around 122,000 applications.
Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin said the assistance through the Affordable Care Act will help the county focus their attention elsewhere.
“As we look at the sea change here from healthcare to public safety, we have a number of issues we need to work on,” Suffredin said. “We have, unfortunately, the largest single-site jail in the United States. We need to reduce the number of people who are in there.”
Now that the 2014 budget is set, both Preckwinkle and Suffredin say the board’s next task is to tackle the county’s pension fund.
Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian.