Daley promises not to hike taxes despite budget crisis

Mayor discusses 2010 budget plans
October 15, 2009 5:06:37 PM PDT
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley talked Thursday about how he will address a city budget deficit of more than half a billion dollars without a tax hike. The mayor did not provide any answers about how the city will pay down that debt. But the mayor did say that he will not raise property taxes or city fees in an effort to balance the budget.

That's basically all he had to say: that he would not recommend tax or fee increases to help balance the city's record budget deficit. It may be part of a strategy to give Chicagoans the good news before the bad.

To make sure the media got it right, the mayor said it three times.

"We will not increase property taxes. Neither will we include any new tax, increase any new tax, fee, or fine of any kind," said Daley.

Daley made the promise six days before he is scheduled to address the City Council on the 2010 budget that right now he says is $550 million in the red. Daley whose administration has supported several tax and fee increases to balance recent budgets explained why he can't ask for new revenues.

"People are suffering. They're suffering worse than people can understand. And it's going to get, unfortunately, worse," said Daley.

Unemployment, drastically slowed real estate sales and the city's foreclosure crisis--over 20,000 last year--have caused Chicago revenues to fall tens of millions of dollars a months.

"Every house that goes into foreclosure is another family that's in pain, another family that's not paying real estate taxes, that's not going out to our stores to shop," said Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward.

Without tax or fee increases, the city could order more service cuts, city worker furloughs and layoffs. And, while its unlikely cops and firefighters would be laid off, Alderman Ed Smith says public safety workers should not be shielded from having to take furlough days.

"Police officers can give us some days. They can do that," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

Alderman Ricardo Munoz says the focus has to be on the city departments with the largest numbers of workers.

"You've got the department of transportation, the department of water, all huge departments that we need to figure out how government can do more with less," said Ald. Munoz, 22nd Ward.

Sources say the Daley administration wants to tap the so-called rainy day fund where it stashes cash collected after it leased public assets like the Chicago Skyway and the parking meter system.

The mayor would not divulge the details of the bad news he'll have to deliver in his budget address next week.

"We have to balance our budget under state law," said Daley.

Word around City Hall is that the mayor will have to recommend raiding the reserves for possibly a few hundreds of millions of dollars to make 2010 work. But the more money he takes, the more it might affect the city's bond or credit rating.


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