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Rahm Budget With $589M Tax Hike Set to Simmer for a Week

By Ted Cox | October 21, 2015 10:56am | Updated on October 21, 2015 2:15pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2016 budget was deferred as a procedural matter Wednesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2016 budget was deferred as a procedural matter Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's controversial 2016 budget, including a $589 million increase in property taxes, was set to simmer for a final week Wednesday, as aldermen tinkered with the fine details.

In a procedural move, the budget was "deferred and published," setting the stage for a final week of wrangling over provisions like ride sharing, a garbage fee and 311 service.

The mayor insisted it was all about "meeting our challenge to finally right the fiscal ship of the City of Chicago" and promised a "fair and progressive" final budget to be voted on next Wednesday.

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who was among the aldermen voting in favor of a $544 million increase in property taxes to address police and fire pensions Tuesday, said, "I'm leaning in that direction" to support the eventual budget.

 Budget Director Alexandra Holt and Ald. Edward Burke talk before Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting.
Budget Director Alexandra Holt and Ald. Edward Burke talk before Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Others expressed doubts.

"I think there are measures the mayor can take to protect working people, and I don't see him seriously pursuing those measures," said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). He said he backed "creative" new sources of revenue, and insisted his proposal for tax rebates was preferable to an expanded homeowner exemption, which the mayor is pursuing in the state legislature, but which Ramirez-Rosa said is unlikely to be endorsed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), however, has said unequivocally he won't back the budget, and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) likewise expressed severe doubts about whether anything could sway his vote against.

Ahead of the City Council meeting Wednesday, the Finance Committee approved a revenue package including a $45 million tax levy for Chicago Public Schools. It did so after Ald. Edward Burke (14th), committee chairman, acknowledged a "reluctance" by aldermen Tuesday to pass it without setting conditions for how the money would be spent.

Budget Director Alexandra Holt submitted an amendment that, Burke said, conditioned approval on "periodic reporting" by CPS to the council on spending of the $45 million. That was good enough for the committee, which passed it on to the full City Council with only Aldermen Roberto Maldonado (26th) and John Arena (45th) opposed.

Maldonado objected to a new $9.50-a-month fee for garbage collection, but Arena took issue with Emanuel's proposal to allow ride-sharing drivers working for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar access to the airports, McCormick Place and Navy Pier, which previously have been exclusive to taxi cabs.

Arena backed a new proposal by Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the Transportation Committee, that would require ride-sharing drivers to have a chauffeur's license and no outstanding debts to the city in order to pick up fares at the airports.

That measure was deferred by Burke, but he said it would be considered ahead of final passage of the 2016 budget next week.

In addition to the extra CPS tax levy, the budget includes a $544 million hike in property taxes phased in over four years and entirely earmarked for state-mandated payments to police and firefighter pension funds. That passed the Finance Committee Tuesday, but by a contentious 17-10 vote with Aldermen Tunney and Brendan Reilly (42nd) among those voting against.

The last time the city passed a massive increase in property taxes, an $87.5 million hike in the 2008 budget under Mayor Richard M. Daley, the final City Council vote was 29-21.

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