Emanuel promises no tax increase in next budget

September 29, 2012 (CHICAGO)

He says there will be tough calls will have to be made to deal with a deficit of nearly $300 million.

The mayor's budget last year included higher taxes, fines, fees and more than 500 layoffs.

"They are paying enough, being nickled and dimed, so we're going to hold the line on taxes, balance our budget," Emanuel said.

Though he didn't say "read my lips," the mayor's comments sounded like a no new taxes pledge.

The announcement comes one day after the city's inspector general released a report saying Chicago's deficit could be closed without higher taxes or cuts in services if the city eliminates waste, including in union contracts for first responders.

"They have an equal obligation to all of us to find a way to do, provide the best services for the taxpayers in the most efficient way," Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said.

With the city currently in contract talks with the police and fire unions, the mayor has been silent on the issue of hiring new officers.

"He's basically shooting across their bow by saying, 'look, we don't have a lot of money for you, so don't come calling. We're cutting the budget.' So he's setting up a fight, possibly, with the unions," said ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington said.

Saturday, the head of the police union accused the mayor of failing to learn from last year's budget.

"Manpower went way down, and the murder rate in Chicago, unlike any other city, went way up," said Fraternal Order of Police's Mike Shields. "And this is what happens when you don't hire more police officers."

If a contract showdown is looming it's hard to tell from the mayor's rhetoric.

"You have to work those out and negotiate those," Emanuel said. "You just can't be declared from high end, or from high up."

His tone is in stark contrast from early teachers' talks.

"The kids got the shaft," he said.

"I think he's learned not to be a bully and not to telegraph his intentions ahead of time and to take it slow," Washington said. "And I haven't heard him say too much about his negotiations with police and fire, and that's probably smart."

The Inspector General's report does recommend staffing cuts, but the mayor has yet to comment on layoffs, saying only that tough choices will have to be made.

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