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Preckwinkle Proposes Layoffs, Booze Tax in Budget

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCChicago.com

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday told commissioners "there was nothing easy" about her proposed 2012 budget.

    "In many ways," Preckwinkle acknowledged, "this is the toughest budget the county has had to face."

    From 1,057 county worker layoffs to proposed tax increases on items like alcohol and chewing tobacco, Cook County residents will see charges in exchange for solving a $315 million budget gap.

    Preckwinkle defended the budget, saying her administration has saved taxpayers $800 million in government spending and a gradual rollback of the sales tax. It offers long-term financial management, she said, and strategic structural changes across county government.

    Still, county residents will see hikes in a few areas.

    Preckwinkle proposed a tax that covers all tobacco products to bring in an extra $12 million, as well as a "modest" increase in the county alcohol tax expected to generate $10 million. She said the county has failed to update alcohol rates for decades, and even with the increase it lags behind Chicago.

    A new $4.75 parking charge at county courthouses also was proposed, as well as a tax on vehicle and yacht sales to help pay for a county road infrastructure.

    She wants to privatize custodial services and decrease the population in county jails.

    Not all of these are new ideas, but Preckwinkle hopes it sets up the county for more fiscally responsible times.

    "We have to continue to work together to reshape county government and deliver on its commitment," Preckwinkle told commissioners. "We owe this to our voters, our taxpayers and our residents of Cook County."