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Lightfoot reveals 2020 budget plan
2019-10-23

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On Oct. 23—while striking Chicago teachers encircled City Hall—Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered her budget address, revealing details of how she plans to close the $838-million budget gap.

She said, in part, "I am here to tell you that we didn't solve our $838 million budget gap with a large property tax increase in 2020. [Last week, she talked about higher taxes on rideshares and restaurant food/drinks as part of the plan.]

"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.

"Our process began on the foundation of good governance and—as we heard from our town halls—driven by the principle that our residents have the right to see their hard-earned tax dollars flowing back to their communities."

It turns out that the budget gap will be sealed by a combination of new investments ( $51.8 million ), savings and efficiencies ( $537.6 million ) and increased revenue ( $352.2 million ). Lightfoot added, "This budget includes $352 million in new revenue. But just as with our efficiencies, these new sources are rooted in progressive economic, financial and social policy. They include reforming Chicago's 'real estate transfer tax'—which is a tax that applies to anyone selling or buying a home."

As for savings and efficiencies, Lightfoot stated that part of it ( $150 million ) was generated through "'zero-based budgeting,' which means we built it from the ground up, ensuring every line was essential to the core service mission of every department." She also said that $200 million were saved through debt refinancing.

Lightfoot also stressed the need for help from Springfield, adding, "we have spoken at length to the governor and his team, legislative leaders and other lawmakers, business groups, and other organizations about our need for Springfield to support a Chicago casino, as well as develop a statewide pension reform package."

A press release stated, "Better fiscal management was a cornerstone of this budget, which enables the City to, for the first time, climb the ramp to fund Police and Fire pensions at a more sustainable, actuarial funding level. In the years ahead, the Lightfoot administration remains committed to identifying additional structural solutions that will continue to improve the city's long-term financial standing.

However, the budget has been criticized. United Working Families Executive Director Emma Tai said in a statement, "There is nothing hard about unleashing a host of regressive taxation on working people, spinning previously-allocated funds as 'new initiatives,' or privatizing vital mental healthcare services.

"These aren't hard choices. They're just more of the same.

"The fight continues to win a city and a budget for the many, where Black, brown, and working-class communities get the city services that we are owed."


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