CHICAGO — After days of heated debate, the Cook County, Ill., Board of Commissioners today approved a measure authorizing the county to issue up to $3.75 billion of refunding and new-money bonds.
The measure passed after commissioners amended it four times to pare down what some commissioners said was handing too much power to the administration of President Todd Stroger and his chief financial officer, Donna Dunnings.
Despite the amendments, a group of four commissioners hotly opposed the measure, saying it would devastate the county’s fiscal position by borrowing up to $740 million in new money only three months after the county board passed a controversial sales tax measure pushing Chicago’s sales tax to the highest in the nation.
“It’s nice that some procedural amendments have been added [to the ordinance], but that’s not the main issue,” said Commissioner Forrest Claypool. “After you raise taxes to record levels, why do you need to borrow money?”
Other commissioners voted against the measure, saying the new-money debt could bring the county to the brink of bankruptcy like Vallejo, Calif., or Jefferson County, Ala.
In amending the measure, commissioners took away Cook’s ability to enter into swaps; took away the county’s request to push some 25-year debt out to 40 years; required board approval on all finance teams before the county enters the market; and restricts proceeds from being used in the county’s working cash fund.