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We’ve run out of road

Mayor Emanuel said a lot of things right in his budget address today. After years of short-term fixes and budget gimmicks that Mayor Daley used to maintain the status quo, this budget feels like a breath of fresh air.

The City of Chicago is facing a budget deficit of $635 million. Mayor Emanuel is proposing a variety of reforms and efficiencies that will save taxpayers $417 million including reorganizing public safety, cuts to managerial positions and vacancies, reduced library hours, among others. He is also proposing a set of other fee increases and investments that will equal $238 million. For a full list, go here.

From a public interest perspective, here are some highlights:

1. The city received $1.16 billion for the parking meter lease. Of the $1.16 billion, $400 million was reserved for a long-term reserve/reinvestment fund, which was anticipated to provide $20 million per year to replace lost revenue from the meters. As most people know, last year Mayor Daley raided most of this money, leaving only $76 million and denying Chicagoans about $16.9 million annually in accrued interest. Mayor Emanuel proposes to put $20 million back into the rainy day fund to “save for Chicago’s future.”

2. TIF Reform. The Mayor is proposing declaring 20% of unallocated TIF funds a surplus and reinvesting them in job creation and economic development from the City budget. But the Mayor also wants to “create a system that will look at the performance of each fund on an annual basis and determine surplus levels based on transparent metrics.” Hmm. He must have read my blog post from yesterday.

3. Mayor Emanuel also included a TIF balance sheet budget at the end of the 2012 Budget Overview. Although it is not very specific, this is the first TIF programming budget included in the City Budget ever.

Today, Mayor Emanuel presented a budget that is free of short-term budget gimmicks and begins to provide long-term solutions. Is it perfect? No. But Mayor Emanuel said it best, “we can no longer kick the can down the road, because we have run out of road.”

To read the Mayor’s Budget Overview, go here.



About Celeste Meiffren

Celeste Meiffren is Illinois PIRG's Field Director. You can contact her at celeste@illinoispirg.org


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