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When Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle took office in December, her administration unveiled an agenda nearly 40 points long, and promised to make significant progress on 29 of them by her 100th day. Today is day 100, and in a press conference at the County Building, Preckwinkle said her administration had achieved 11 of the 29 initiatives.
Chief among them is the repeal of the sales tax hike that gave Cook County the highest sales tax in the country, at 10.25 percent; it will be gone by 2013. The administration also enacted cost-cutting measures, including a moratorium on capital projects deemed unnecessary; completed a desk and compensation audit of county employees; reduced pension costs by holding off senior staff hires; and established a task force to reform the county’s pension program.
“I’m proud of my accomplishments, but I’m more excited about what’s to come,” Preckwinkle said.
That includes parsing the data from the desk audit to find redundancies, as well as taking advantage of pro bono consultants the county is using to implement new efficiency and purchasing standards.
It also means further discussions with labor unions, who already agreed to ten furlough days in 2011, about employees’ health care contributions and pensions.
“We pay about 4 percent for our health care costs, and I think over the long term, that’s not sustainable,” Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle faced a budget deficit of nearly $500 million when she took office and myriad other problems, many of which she’s blaming on her predecessor, Todd Stroger. She said the Stroger administration bungled the reimbursement of flood-relief grants by sending the state a box of “jumbled” documents, which a team is now sorting through to determine which homeowners will receive compensation for the 2008 floods.
“I don’t think my predecessor did his job effectively, and the people of Cook County agree with me,” Preckwinkle told reporters.
She said her biggest accomplishment was not repealing the sales tax, but “hiring lots of good people.”