Phone surcharge hike ordinance proposed by Rahm Emanuel, aldermen

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Phone surcharge hike proposed by Emanuel, aldermen
A phone surcharge hike ordinance is being proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and several aldermen.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Right now, Chicagoans pay $2.40 per month in taxes for each of their wireless or landline phones. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to increase that charge to $3.90.

As he explained why he wanted a 56 percent tax increase on the phone lines in a press conference Wednesday, not once did Emanuel say anything about paying for 911 emergency services.

"It's a $1.40 addition as a way to avoid increasing property taxes," he said.

He conceded the $50 million in new revenue would be used to pay city workers pensions.

"It allows us to keep our commitment to securing all 61,000 workers their retirement check," he said.

Outside City Hall, some Chicagoans wondered how the current $2.40 a month tax is being used.

"That seems a little unfair because it's my cellphone and I'm not getting a pension," said Tonia Mykhailenko, a cellphone owner.

"I'm conservative. I know how to spend money. They don't," said Bob Russo, a cellphone owner.

Last month the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill enabling local governments to raise telephone taxes to pay for improved 911 services. City budgeters will shift money from one account to another to pay down pension debt.

"I'm not just going to jump in and support something," said Ald. Anthony Beale of the city's 9th Ward. "I'm going to analyze it and find out what's best for the city of Chicago."

Emanuel denied that the phone tax is a politically-motivated levy to help city politicians avoid an inevitable pension-related property tax increase before next year's city elections.

"It's a chance to avoid the property taxes and give us time to find other ways of doing this without that," he said.

In a statement, the mayor's office claimed that 38 aldermen have signed on as co-sponsors of the telephone surcharge. That's considerably more than the 26 votes needed to pass the ordinance.

Related Topics