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Cook County Budget: More Than 1,000 Layoffs, Fee And Tax Increases Ahead

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TONI PRECKWINKLE
AP

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's second budget, slated to be officially unveiled Tuesday, is expected to include layoffs of just more than 1,000 county employees, increased taxes on alcohol, tobacco and other "luxury" objects and new fees for residents of incorporated areas of the county.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Preckwinkle's budget, which will need to be approved by county commissioners before going into effect, has identified $110 million in savings. The budget also manages to sustain a campaign promise that Preckwinkle made: a quarter-sent reduction of the county's sales tax beginning Jan. 1.

Preckwinkle explained that the layoffs -- 1,057 to be exact -- will be presented to labor unions with another option that could save some jobs: eight unpaid furlough days in 2012. While she admitted to the Chicago News Cooperative that she "never imagined" she would be faced with laying off so many county employees before she was elected to her position, describing it as "a very hard part of the task in front of us," she has approached the entire budget process with the mantra of "shared sacrifice" at a time where the county faces a $315 million deficit in 2012.

The budget further outlines an increase of wholesale alcohol taxes -- up 20 percent to 50 percent -- and parking garage fee increases, the Chicago Tribune reports. The tax for anyone buying titled properties will also increase to offset the lowered county sales tax and all tobacco products, including rolling papers, will now be taxed.

Springboarding off previous statements questioning the costs of jailing non-violent offenders in Cook County, Preckwinkle also hopes to put such offenders on pretrial electronic monitoring, allowing them to work, attend school and spend time with their family, instead of jailing them immediately, the Sun-Times reports. Such a move would be half as expensive as jailing them during that time. She has similar plans for the county's Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

And as far as cracking down on the two percent of Cook County residents living in unincorporated areas, they will now face a new tax for police services, which they previously have received for free, according the News Cooperative.

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