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Cook County 2010, Illinois Politics

Cook County 2010: Toni Preckwinkle Aims to Snuff Out Cook County Sales Tax Repeal Controversy

(Chicago, IL) — May 20, 2010. Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle yesterday got a valuable lesson in the inherent risk of the absence of a finely tuned, planned, practiced, and adhered to political message when a candidate inhabits a loftier political atmosphere than previously and the topic is taxes.

Preckwinkle got swatted around yesterday by the local press for seemingly to abandon her pledge to fully repeal in 2011 the current 1% sales tax increase enacted by Board President Todd Stroger. During her successful campaign against Stroger in the Democratic primary, Preckwinkle never promised to repeal the tax by 2011, rather only pledged a full-repeal during her four-year term.

WLS-TV Charles Thomas, however, cast Preckwinkle comments on Wednesday morning on the tax as a flip-flop:

A candidate for Cook County Board president says she must delay a campaign promise to roll back the county’s sales tax. Democrat Toni Preckwinkle says Cook County’s financial situation is worse than she realized when she made that promise.

Preckwinkle said Wednesday there is no way the rest of the sales tax increase could be rolled back next year. The Chicago alderman says, in the near term, Cook County will need every penny it can raise to balance its budget.

“Why would I, walking in the door, complicate an extremely difficult situation?” said Preckwinkle.

The frontrunner to become the next Cook County Board president stole the show from Mayor Daley Wednesday morning. Democratic nominee Alderman Toni Preckwinkle first revealed what she had been told by county government insiders about the huge budget deficit she could inherit in 2011.

“The conservative estimates that I was presented show a $250 million gap. And the more dire predictions are closer to $400 to $500 million,” Preckwinkle said.

The 4th Ward Alderman’s remarks seemed to suggest some shift on her position because of the new budget deficit information even if there was no shift. By revealing that news and juxtaposing it with a definitive declaration on a no-go 2011 roll-back, it fueled the impression of a shift.

Preckwinkle’s campaign issued a somewhat whispered versus full-throated articulation of her long-standing position. A more forceful assertion and clarification of her position came from Capital Fax‘s Rich Miller. In fact, Preckwinkle’s campaign e-mailed Miller’s researched reprints of past Preckwinkle statements or other media reports.

Preckwinkle’s statement:

Since announcing my campaign for Cook County Board President in December of 2008, I have been committed to repealing the sales tax increase. From Day 1, my focus will be on working to make that a reality.  I have already pledged to immediately take a 10% pay cut and call for a comprehensive personnel audit, beginning with the Office of the President.

Since Feb. 2nd, we have put a lot of energy into trying to figure out what we are heading into. At this point, it has been suggested that we could be looking at a huge deficit next year. It would be irresponsible to cut resources without knowing more about the state of the County’s financial condition. I am committed to filling any budget gaps without burdening the people of Cook County.

As Cook County Board President, my focus from Day 1 will be implementing responsible spending practices, eliminating waste and inefficiencies, and looking for non-tax resources so that we can repeal the remainder of the sales tax.

Repealing the sales tax, while cleaning up corruption and providing services more effectively will feel like we’re fixing the plane while we’re flying it, but I am confident we will meet these challenges.

No where in that statement is the four-year term tax phase out mentioned. Why? The statement has such a will-o’-the-whisp quality on the repeal.

If the campaign is going to promote Preckwinkle policies, it must do a better a job on offense and defense than this. It can not depend on the Rich Millers’ of the world to do it for them.

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


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