Mayor Lori Lightfoot eyes new high-end service taxes to fund Chicago pensions

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is working on her plan to tackle the city's looming pension debt, and said while the key is new revenue it's not just a new tax on property owners.

Nothing is set in stone but with $28 billion in pension debt, it's clear the mayor will have to find some new revenue sources even as she cuts and consolidates to save money elsewhere in the city budget.

At the same time, it appears any help the city might get from the state would be limited.

"The reason we haven't solved the pension problem is because of political will. Pure and simple," Lightfoot said.

But the mayor is determined to show that will and she's eyeing a new service tax as a way to tackle the pension problem.

"Let me be clear, we're not looking at a general expansion of the service tax," Lightfoot explained. "What we're looking at is targeted at higher-end professional services, like the law firm that I left, accounting services. We're not looking at expanding service tax on mom and pop companies, so that is an option."

Any service tax would require approval from state lawmakers. After a weekend meet with the mayor covering many topics, Governor JB Pritzker said the state would not be able to absorb the city's $28 billion pension debt in a consolidation plan because of the state's own poor credit rating. But during a news conference announcing his new capital spending plan, the governor did offer some unspecified help.

"There's no part of the pension conversation that's being left out, we have state pension challenges that we have to meet, we have, obviously, the city of Chicago has its pension challenges and we have those many fire and police municipal pensions, so we're looking at all of it," Pritzker said.

Lightfoot appears committed to solving the pension problem, even if it makes her a one-term mayor.

"I came into this job to solve problems, not to continue to kick the can down the road," she said.
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