CHICAGO — The Cook County, Ill., Board of Commissioners Friday approved a new $3.2 billion spending plan for fiscal 2014 that raises no taxes and relies on new federal health care funds aid to offset chronic shortfalls in its massive health system.
The budget plan does not tackle the county's growing pension liability, which analysts have said poses a threat to its fiscal stability.
"Our $3.2 billion spending plan does not raise taxes, fines or fees for Cook County residents and strengthens the county's finances while making critical investments in our public health and safety systems," County President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. "While we continue to improve the fiscal position of the county, we also will work to resolve the problems associated with the pension fund that serves county employees and retirees. I am determined to pursue a permanent and equitable solution that safeguards pensions for those who depend on them while protecting the interests of County taxpayers."
The budget, which was nearly identical to the one Preckwinkle proposed last month, includes $40 million in capital funding to update the county's technology.
The third largest county in the U.S., Cook operates one of the country's largest health systems, which has faced shortfalls for years. The hospital system accounts for $1.25 billion of the county budget. Last year Cook requested and won a waiver from the federal government that allowed it to expand its Medicaid program a year ahead of the formal 2014 start of the new law.
That move, along with savings expected with the start of the new law this year, will bring in nearly $280 million in revenue, more than half of the $500 million in uncompensated care the county spends annually.
Cook has $5.8 billion of unfunded pension obligations for a funded ration of 57.7%.
Standard & Poor's rates the county AA. Fitch Ratings rates it AA-minus, and Moody's Investors Service rates it A1. Both Fitch and Moody's have negative outlook.