2013 has been a very busy year for Cook County government. I am happy to report that we passed a balanced budget with nearly unanimous support and issued the final rollback of the Stroger sales tax that was killing local businesses.
Moreover, Cook County has finally been able to get its fiscal house in order. Since taking office in 2010, President Toni Preckwinkle and our county board have been able to solve $1.2 billion in budget deficits, all without raising taxes.
Some of the things that I have worked especially hard on this year have been passing a Veteran’s Hiring Preference amendment, cleaning up the scandal plagued Medical Examiner’s Office, working to get an early Medicaid expansion waiver that has saved county taxpayers $75 million this year alone, and reforming the appointment process for the Metra Board of Directors.
One of the recurring themes that I have learned while serving as your county commissioner is the struggle between competing interests in the city of Chicago and the suburbs. I believe that suburban taxpayers pay more than their fair share and do not receive an equal proportion of county services.
This year I fought against a proposal to charge unincorporated county residents with a “special services assessment.” The logic behind the amendment was that these residents do not contribute as much in taxes and that they should be taxed more. These residents see very little in the way of county services, and I believe that any additional taxes would be unjustified. I am happy to report that the measure failed to pass.
Similarly, I have fought against the horse rider’s fee that is charged to individuals who ride in our forest preserves. I believe that these trails should be free and open to everyone. We pay our fair share in taxes for the forest preserve already, and should not be charged an additional fee to use them.
Finally, the board is currently discussing an amendment to the Solid Waste Ordinance that charges more fees for garbage hauling in the suburbs, but exempts the city of Chicago. This fee will undoubtedly be passed on to suburban residents. I do not think it’s fair to make our suburban taxpayers shoulder this additional fee, and I do not plan on voting for the measure.
It has been an honor to serve as your Cook County Commissioner, and I wish everyone a joyous holiday season.
Jeff Tobolski is Cook County commissioner for the 16th District and mayor of the village of McCook