CHICAGO - Facing a Feb. 29 deadline to pass a fiscal 2008 budget, the Cook County, Ill., board last week paved the way for a series of tax increases to avoid double-digit budget cuts that commissioners said would devastate the county.

President Todd Stroger warned of dire across-the-board cuts needed to eliminate a projected $240 million deficit. Stroger's $3.2 billion budget was balanced largely with tax increases, including a controversial measure to raise the county's sales tax by 2 percentage points, pushing Chicago's sales tax to 11% - including city, county, state taxes - and making it among the highest in the nation.

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