Chicago mayor defends 2021 budget plan including property tax hike, layoffs

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended her proposed budget Monday as Chicago City Council hearings got underway on how to close the $1.2 billion budget.

WATCH: Chicago mayor unveils 2021 budget proposal

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivers 2021 budget address (1 of 4)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivers her 2021 Chicago budget address

The mayor sat down for a one-on-one interview with ABC7, where she revealed a hidden revenue source they are looking at: drivers who push the speed limit, even a little.

Lightfoot stood by her budget, which she knows comes with some pain, particularly for property owners, who will see their taxes go up.

ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington on Mayor Lightfoot's budget proposal

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ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington reacts to Mayor Lori Lightfoot's budget proposal.

"There's nothing easy about this budget, no easy decisions whatsoever," Mayor Lightfoot said.

The mayor's budget proposal includes what she calls a "modest" hike - for the average home worth $250,000, it would be a $56 increase next year. But during a virtual budget hearing Monday, many alderman raised concerns about hiking property taxes on people already COVID-stressed and economically hurt. Some suggested the mayor look to making more budget cuts.

"We're right at the tipping point," Lightfoot said. "If we cut more, we lay off more people, take more vacancies, there's no question whatsoever, it's going to have a very drastic impact on services and I haven't heard a single alderman say, 'Sign me up for that.'"

The mayor is hoping federal stimulus money will help avoid 350 layoffs next year. She was asked if there was enough money, could she forgo the property tax increase.

"Look, a lot of it really depends upon, A: If we get it, which is very uncertain, B: what's the size of it, C: what form does it come," Lightfoot said.

2021 Chicago Budget: Read full overview here

Buried in the 595-page budget, there is a plan to raise more money by using speed cameras to go after those doing six-to-nine miles an hour over the limit instead of using 10 over as the benchmark.
How much might that bring in? The mayor would not be specific.

"Well, it really depends upon adherence to what the level is. But it should be a significant amount to help close our budget gap," Lightfoot said.

They mayor is hoping that alderman will not seek to make dramatic changes to her budget plan, saying it was crafted with their input. But with a lot of concerns about the property tax increase, this next phase of the budget process may not be easy.
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