Emanuel's 2018 budget plan includes higher fees on rideshare services, cell phone bills

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An increased tax on phones to pay for 911 upgrades and a fee hike for ridesharing to cover CTA improvements were included in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed 2018 budget, which he released Wednesday.

In his speech to city council, the two-term mayor sounded like a candidate running for a third term.

"Every single bad financial practice we've inherited in 2011 has now been eliminated from the budget. We have traded fiscal tricks for honest books," Emanuel said.

Initially, some aldermen said that compared to previous budgets, Emanuel's 2018 budget didn't ask as much from taxpayers.

Among the tax relief is that homeowners would see their exemption increased by 40 percent from $7,000 to $10,000 if Emanuel's budget is passed.

Others remained skeptical.

"The only positive thing that I see out of this proposed budget is the declaration of the surplus of $166 million, which means 50 percent of those dollars are going to go to CPS," Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward) said.

The budget calls for sending half of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) surplus money to Chicago Public Schools.
Several budget hearings will be held before the full council votes on the 2018 budget.


The budget proposal calls for a $1.10 increase in the 911 phone tax for cellphones and landlines to help upgrade the 911 system.

"We have a mandate to rebuild the structure and get it upgraded. ... I believe we should do it per account instead of per phone," said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward).


A 15-cent fee hike for Uber and Lyft rides is also part of the proposed budget and aims to pay for CTA upgrades.
Aldermen said ridesharing services are to blame for decreased use of public transportation, however, the increase doesn't sit well with some drivers and riders.

"I'm tired of all the taxing, taxing, I'm not for it," Uber driver Tom Florenteane.

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Mayor Emanuel outlined his spending plan before City Council Wednesday, which includes higher fees for rideshare services.


Emanuel is also proposing to increase the amusement tax on venues with more than 1,500 seats. However, venues with less will no longer have to pay a tax.

"But, we still have left out folks like the (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) who serve higher income clientele they are not paying the tax," said Ald. John Arena (45th Ward).
Ald. Arena says the challenge is coming up with new ideas that don't rely on regressive taxes increase.


The budget's big winner was the Chicago Police Department.

Emanuel proposed nearly $27 million in new funding for police training and community policing. The increased revenue would allow the department to expand by nearly 1,000 positions by the end of 2018, including 500 more police officers.


Emanuel claimed Chicago is on firmer financial footing than it has been in years.

"The days of smoke and mirrors are behind us. The days of selling off assets to balance the budget and pay Chicago's bills are behind us. The days of raiding the rainy day fund to keep the city afloat are behind us. With this budget, once again, we will continue saving for Chicago's future instead of selling it short," Emanuel said.
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