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Progressives Seek To 'Protect' Residents From 'Inevitable' Tax Increase

By Ted Cox | July 30, 2015 1:27pm
 Ald. Scott Waguespack proposes raising fees and taxes on the rich, backed by Aldermen David Moore, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, John Arena and Toni Foulkes.
Ald. Scott Waguespack proposes raising fees and taxes on the rich, backed by Aldermen David Moore, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, John Arena and Toni Foulkes.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Facing what they called an "inevitable" hike in property taxes, progressive aldermen made several proposals Thursday to increase taxes and fees on "Chicago's wealthiest residents and corporations."

"What we're really looking to do here is protect Chicago's taxpayers' pockets," said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) in a City Hall news conference after a meeting between the Progressive Reform Caucus and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his budget director.

According to Waguespack, the proposals to raise revenue were intended to "avoid hitting the button on property taxes only" as the city faces a budget gap of "hundreds of millions" of dollars with the required payment of long-overdue pension contributions.

"We're in crisis mode, and so everything has to be on the table," Waguespack added.

The proposals ranged from a graduated state income tax and a financial transaction tax on Chicago trading markets — both of which would require approval by the General Assembly — to a "Bad Business Fee" and "Stormwater Stress Tax" designed to hit so-called big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, as well as a luxury tax on high-end products like furs, jewelry and boats.

Waguespack and Ald. John Arena (45th) said Emanuel and Budget Director Alex Holt were receptive to the proposals in a meeting Thursday morning.

Arena called it "the start of a collaboration" and said he was "very encouraged by the discussion."

The mayor has previously said he's looking for any and all ways to raise revenue ahead of submitting his 2016 budget proposal in September.

The Bad Business Fee would tax business on "failure to pay workers a living wage," which aldermen said robbed the city of tax revenues. The "Stormwater Stress Tax," meanwhile, would be assessed on businesses causing increased runoff due to large parking lots and stores.

The aldermen also pushed for additional reforms to the Tax Increment Finance district program after the mayor recently proposed halting seven TIF districts. They also sought taxes on services provided by lawyers, dentists, accountants and realtors and proposed new fees on ride-sharing services, perhaps tied to allowing them access to airports.

The aldermen also proposed ways to protect senior citizens and low-income areas from a property-tax increase.

"We can't continue down the same path and expect different results," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).

"It's going to be challenging to get this through Springfield," said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) on items requiring General Assembly approval such as a progressive state income tax and financial-transaction tax. "We hope that the mayor will join us in championing these solutions as well." He called on state legislators to "untie our hands and allow the city to raise revenue."

Fellow Progressive Reform Caucus Aldermen Nicholas Sposato (38th) and David Moore (17th) joined in the news conference.

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