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Five County Commissioners Flip-Flop on Unpaid Days

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Sept. 21, 2011: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle calls actions "regrettable."

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Preckwinkle: Commissioners' Actions "Regrettable"

Faced with the reality of smaller checks, two Cook County board members changed their minds about taking 10 unpaid days.
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Faced with the reality of smaller checks, five Cook County board members changed their minds about taking 10 unpaid days.

Late in the day Wednesday, Commissioners Robert Steele, Deborah Sims and John Murphy joined Commissioners Earlean Collins and William Beavers in opposition to taking five furlough days and five government shutdown days.

Beavers told the Chicago Sun-Times he believed doing so would violate the Illinois Constitution that makes it illegal for sitting elected officials to get their pay raised or reduced.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle conceded that Beavers' reading of the Constitution is accurate, but she said he could voluntarily take the shut down days.

"He's chosen not to. I think that's regrettable," said Preckwinkle. "We have to be role models and we have to provide leadership, and refusing to do what we're asking everyone else to do, I think, is bad policy and practice."

Collins and Beavers both flipped-flopped from the unanimous budget vote the board cast last February.

"Can I give up 10 days? Yes. Absolutely," Collins said at the time.

But seven months later, the commissioner, who earns $85,000 a year like her elected colleagues, did a 180 degree turn.

"I will not sit by and take my cut because I know this board nor the president can cut my salary," she said at Tuesday's meeting. Collins stressed she and her staff have sacrificed enough with the budget cuts for her district office.

The county faced a $500 million shortfall in its $3 billion budget. Preckwinkle pushed for the unpaid days proposal for 23,000 plus county employees in hopes of saving $29 million by Nov. 30.

The county has saved $16.2 million as of the end of August, said Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff.

"The budget was passed unanimously," Preckwinkle said Wednesday. "Presumably they thought it was a good idea then. I don't understand why they don't think it's a good idea now."

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