CHICAGO - Cook County President Todd Stroger yesterday defended the recent tax increase that boosted Chicago's sales tax to the highest in the nation, saying it allowed the county to escape the kind of financial troubles afflicting local governments across the U.S.

Stroger also stood by his plan to issue $740 million of new-money general obligation bonds to pay for an array of capital projects, as the borrowing is expected to come under fire from some county commissioners next week.

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