CHICAGO — The City of Chicago is over $800 million in the hole. On Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlined in her first budget address how she plans to dig Chicagoans out.
Under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago was choked with the biggest property tax in the city’s history.
“As I outlined in my State of the City address, Chicago is staring down an $838 million budget gap - one of the largest gaps in our history,” Lightfoot said.
In the budget address Wednesday, the mayor said the budget gap is not going to be closed with a “large property tax increase.”
"That is why – before I go any further – I am here to tell you that we didn’t solve our $838 million budget gap with a large property tax increase in 2020,” Mayor Lightfoot said. "Instead, our budget gap was closed through a combination of savings and efficiencies totaling $538 million, along with a number of carefully chosen revenue sources totaling $352 million."
According to the mayor's office, the $538 million will be saved from zero based budgeting, vacancy reduction, debt refusing, improved revenue collection, department mergers and improved fiscal management.
The mayor said $352 million will be raised from congestion initiatives, exciting service and sales taxes, emergency services reimbursement, additional TIF surplus, real estate transfer tax and marijuana and casino revenue.
Lightfoot said the proposed savings will stop the budget gap from growing even further.
"In crafting this budget, we also knew that our gap would only grow over the next several years, which meant we needed to cut wasteful spending and establish structural reforms now which will carry us into the future,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor proposed refinancing existing city debt. She wants to collect taxes and fees from city vendors, and permanently eliminate over 3,000 open job vacancies.
She also wants to triple ride share taxes in some cases, and increase the ground transportation tax to name a few ideas. However, Lisnek says the numbers still don’t add up.
Something new for this Lightfoot administration is new streams of incomes realized for the first time on her watch, such as casino cash and marijuana money. But how much can they really deliver?
WGN political analyst Paul Lisnek says the mayor has given herself an out — she wants help from Springfield. If state lawmakers don’t deliver, Lisnek says a property tax hike may be her last resort after inheriting a city budget crisis that was a shock even to Lightfoot.
According to the mayor's budget address, a property tax increase isn't in the cards.
The budget address comes as around 300,000 CPS students are out of school due to an ongoing strike. Mayor Lightfoot has repeatedly said the city has no more money.