CHICAGO — For weeks, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been setting the stage for an uncomfortable conversation about taxes and spending. She has said she’s going to hit taxpayers with bad news after cuts government waste.
And before she asks taxpayers to reach into their wallets, Lightfoot has ordered a hiring freeze.
This week, the mayor’s budget director Susie Park sent a letter to commissioners and department heads.
The move affects 3,000 vacancies, including the Chicago Police Department. A September class of CPD recruits has been cancelled.
The order comes as Lightfoot prepares to give a primetime TV speech next Thursday.
She will address to the city’s massive budget deficit, reportedly north of a billion dollars.
To plug the hole, Lightfoot sought help from Springfield and floated the idea of a state takeover of city employee pension funds.
Governor Pritzker rejected the idea but talks continue.
“We have been, since the time of the transition, in conversation with the governor and his team, the legislative leaders and their respective teams,” Lightfoot said last week. “We need to have help from Springfield to address the challenges we have as a city. Now some people say well we can’t do a Chicago bailout but the reality is Chicago is 80 percent of the economy of this state.”
To raise revenue, the mayor wants lawmakers to restructure taxes on a Chicago casino so the city collects a bigger take.
Lightfoot is also considering raising the real estate transfer tax on expensive property and taxing high-end professional services such as lawyers and accountants.
She will need Springfield lawmakers to ok these proposals and of course City Council. Will she raise property taxes like Mayor Emanuel did? We may find out next week.