Monday, January 29, 2007

The Stroger Plan

New Cook County President Todd Stroger has proposed a 2007 budget that unceremoniously cuts 17% from the county budget. From what I gather, the cut is not selective. Each department is expected to cut 17% and Stroger's team has proposed where to make the cuts.

Now, each of the county fiefdoms are up in arms. County employees are rushing to public hearings to tell why they are absolutely crucial and can't be cut. Well, too bad!

Cook County has a $3 Billion budget. Even a county the size of Cook can run on that budget. More taxes are not required. But what I find most troubling is that the media voices that were complaining that the county budget was bloated in years past, and complained that Todd Stroger was a light weight and a hack of the machine (full disclosure: I'm part of both groups) are now complaining about the services that are going to be cut in Stroger's budget.

You can't have it both ways people! Mercifully, the Chicago Tribune editorial board sticks to its guns.

Stroger's cuts may be ham handed but as the Trib points out it has to start somewhere. Maybe some "tough love" for agencies used to continual budget increases funded by continual tax and fee increases will make some real reforms. Again, the Trib points out that new cars every year is probably not a necessity. It's a luxury. Not everything is perfect. Some executives continuing to get raises should not be tolerated when others are losing their jobs.

Government, at all levels, needs to understand that public coffers are not bottomless wells. We can dry up and at times you have to get by one what you had last year or the year before that. I haven't read and learned every detail of this budget but I will give it my non-binding stamp of approval at this point. I've personally lived with the same, very comfortable salary for the last two and half years while inflation raises the cost of the every day items I buy. I have no problem with Cook County being forced into a little belt tightening.



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