Mayor Lightfoot delivers first State of the City address

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CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot presented a long-term financial plan and investments to help working families in her first State of the City address.

She gave the speech Thursday evening. It comes as the nation's third-largest city has a massive budget deficit and faces a potential teachers' strike.

For the first time, Lightfoot put a number on Chicago's budget deficit.

"The budget gap for 2020 is $838 million," Lightfoot said. "If $838 million sounds like it's big, it's because it is."

It's the largest deficit in recent history. Lightfoot threw an elbow at past administrations.

"We walked into a staggeringly large budget deficit for next year and what was worse, we were not left with any credible plan on how to fix this massive problem," she said.

Thursday, the mayor did not reveal how she plans to plug the hole that she said was $1 billion when she took office. Instead, she discussed savings.

For example, she audited the $100 million worker's comp program that had long been controlled by Alderman Ed Burke. Also, she canceled contracts, eliminated short-term borrowing and ordered a hiring freeze.

However, Lightfoot said more revenue is needed.

"We have some hard choices to make," she said.

Lightfoot committed to a graduated real estate transfer tax.

On pensions, the mayor continues to look toward Springfield.

"Solving our pension problem will require the entire state to come together," she said.

State Representative Greg Harris attended the speech.

"It's gonna take a lot of convincing, but I'm hoping that we can come to an agreement to not only help Chicago but all other municipalities with pension problems," Harris said.

City Council Budget Chair Pat Dowell was also on hand.

"All options are on the table and now it's a matter of trying to put those various options together in the best way for the city's taxpayers."

As for property taxes, the mayor said she wants to avoid another massive increase. More specifics will be released in the coming months.

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