CHICAGO — With budget season underway, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is increasing city spending by $236 million. While the city leader does so without raising taxes, City Council members are skeptical.
Johnson called his first budget proposal a down payment on his progressive agenda.
Rather than pursue $1 billion in investments, as he promised on the campaign trail, the mayor is taking a more modest approach – closing a projected $538 million gap while holding the line on property taxes.
“My budget team and department heads have been hard at work developing a plan that not only closes the budget gap but makes strategic investments in people and communities,” Johnson said Wednesday.
The mayor has proposed money for youth employment – 4,000 more opportunities for summer jobs – bringing the total to 28,000. Johnson also wants $250 million in homelessness support, additional funds for the city’s Home Repair Program, money to open two shuttered mental health clinics, funding for progressives Treatment Not Trauma, which calls for a nonpolice response to mental health emergencies and investments in climate initiatives.
“Things that progressives have been asking for for a very long time are in this budget,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward).
Post-speech, however, several members of City Council raised concerns about public safety spending.
“What we need is to recruit and retain police officers here in Chicago,” said Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd Ward).
“We need more coppers on the street. We need to go after crime at a higher level,” said Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward).
Mayor Johnson’s budget adds just under 400 new civilian positions within the Chicago Police Department, while apparently not cutting the 1,700 vacancies in the department.
To balance the budget, Johnson says he will take $434 million from tax-increment financing funds, known as TIF. He’s also counting on operational efficiencies and an unexpected $186 million more in revenue.
As for the migrant crisis, the mayor proposes increasing staffing at city departments and creating an office for new arrivals.
“What current residents need and deserve from our city is not the same as what new arrivals need in this moment,” he said. “But we must meet all demands if we truly love all people.”
The city is allocating $150 million to the migrant crisis. If that’s not enough money, the mayor will have to come back to the Council and ask for more.