Cook County budget passes unanimously - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Cook County budget passes unanimously

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Cook County Board unanimously passed President Toni Preckwinkle's $3.2 billion 2014 budget Friday -- a budget that includes no new taxes, fees or fines.

It was the second time in four years that a Preckwinkle budget has passed with a 17-0 vote, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

"Perception is the reality and the reality is that you've turned this ship around and now we're heading the right direction and the taxpayers are going to reap the benefits," said Commissioner Edwin Reyes (D-8th).

The budget also includes $40 million in capital funding to update the county's outdated technology.

"To every single commissioner, I say, the difficult decisions we have made and the problematic budgets of the last three years have set the stage for this one," Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle's budget contains no new taxes or hikes due in large part to cost savings from CountyCare, the Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act.

The budget package also earmarks money for technology upgrades to its financial system, property tax system and criminal data-sharing system.

By next year, the Leighton Criminal Courthouse will be connected to the county's broadband Internet network — the same network that boosted the Cook County hospital system last year — delivering Internet connections that are 10 times faster.

Last month, Preckwinkle said improved connectivity at the courthouse and jail — where three inmates were mistakenly released this year due to paper work snafus — might lead to fewer mistakes.

In June the county reported a preliminary budget deficit of $152 million. The county expects to close that gap with: a projected increase of $16.5 million in tax revenues; Medicaid reimbursements to Cook County Health and Hospitals System of $86.5 million; and $10.5 million in other savings throughout the county health system, Preckwinkle had said.

The county also projects it will slash additional expenses by $38.6 million, including cuts to county employee health and pharmacy benefits.

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