Emanuel proposes 1st budget as Chicago mayor

Comments: 0  | Leave A Comment

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago would get more expensive for visitors and residents under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first budget proposal unveiled Wednesday as he tries to tackle a $636 million deficit.

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago would get more expensive for visitors and residents under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first budget proposal unveiled Wednesday as he tries to tackle a $636 million deficit.

Emanuel wants to raise the hotel tax an average of $1.78 a night, add a $2 congestion fee on weekdays for parking in downtown garages and lots, and raise city vehicle sticker prices for SUVs and trucks because he says heavier vehicles do more damage to streets.

An influential alderman quickly predicted the budget would pass muster with the 50-member Chicago City Council, where Emanuel has worked to make allies after two decades of aldermen being expected to do what they were told under his predecessor, retired Mayor Richard Daley.

"I believe it will have a clear majority. We’re at a point now where the city’s finances are in such serious condition that the city government simply can’t do business the way it has done business over the years," said Alderman Ed Burke, who heads the council’s powerful finance committee.

Emanuel has proposed $417 million in cuts, efficiencies and other reforms that along with $238 million in revenue increases, debt refinancing and modest growth projections could allow the city to close its operating budget gap and still squirrel away $20 million in reserves, which the city has previously relied on to patch its budgets.

Emanuel acknowledged the budget takes some tough action — things, he said, that had been discussed before but were discarded because of political considerations.

"The cost of putting political choices ahead of practical solutions has become too expensive," he said in his budget address to a special meeting of the City Council.

And, Emanuel didn’t shy away from laying blame for the city finances partly at Daley’s feet.

"The truth is that Chicago’s last 10 city budgets have been in the red. Yes, the Great Recession added to the crisis. But when budgets don’t cover expenses year after year, it’s clear we have a structural problem. Chicago cannot afford this type of government any longer," he said.

Questions and some early dissent emerged after Emanuel’s address.

City Clerk Susana Mendoza was quick to reject the idea of higher vehicle sticker prices and complained she had been left out of the mayor’s budgeting process.

"I am adamantly opposed to raising any city vehicle sticker fees," she said in a statement, calling it "unacceptable at a time when people’s pocketbooks are stretched to the maximum already." The annual sticker price for large passenger cars such as SUVs would rise to $135 annually from $120 under Emanuel’s plan.

Some aldermen also questioned Emanuel’s proposal to close three police stations in older buildings and merge them with other stations in new facilities.

"I have a lot of questions about that and until those questions are answered I’m opposed to that idea," Aldermen Will Burns said.

Emanuel also has proposed consolidating police and fire headquarters and reducing library hours to save money. He wants to take 2,000 vacant jobs — some of them police — out of the budget and layoff more than 500 people to thin the ranks of senior- and mid-level managers.

The mayor’s proposed budget doesn’t include an increase in property taxes and cuts in half an employee head tax that companies pay.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


Leave a Comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102,883 other followers