We asked several Chicago influencers their reaction to the Mayor’s budget. Here are their comments:

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
Cook County Commissioner, former mayoral candidate

“Though the mayor tried to downplay a property tax increase during the campaign; striving to make it more progressive is the way to go. The real measure of whether the budget turns the corner in addressing the long-term budget issues is the level of structural change in how we deliver essential services. We need to see changes that result in savings between the various “governments” within the city and between the city and the county. We won’t know what changes have been proposed until we see more details. Then we will see if this is just a major stopgap or a real solution.”

Ralph Martire
Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

“It’s probably the most responsible budget we have in the entire state of Illinois between city of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and the state… At least Rahm Emanuel stepped up to the plate and said if you have recurring services, you need recurring revenue.” The bigger picture, Martire says, “For decades, taxpayers in Illinois have consumed public services and have not had to pay the full cost of those services in taxes. The reason for that is the significant borrowing against public employee pensions. We still have to pay it back. The only way to pay it back is to raise revenue to pay service delivery and debt. The longer we wait to do that, the higher the cost for taxpayers becomes. Maybe people thought it was a great deal to live in low-tax Illinois, but the free lunch always had to end. You have to repay your debts.”   

Julie Dworkin
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

“I think our overall reaction is that unlike the governor, [Mayor Emanuel] has made the unpopular decision to do a significant tax increase in order to generate revenue that’s needed so that we don’t have to cut important human services in the city, or cut back on pension benefits. I think it’s a positive step in the right direction. We feel like the governor and the legislature should be doing the same thing in taking the courageous move to [do the same]…The $250,000 homeowner exemption is an attempt to make it progressive, but in reality that’s going to need approval from Springfield and it might not help people who are in a fixed income but in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.”

Anders Lindall
AFSCME Council 31

On the outsourcing of 311: “We heard the one sentence in the mayor’s speech just like everyone else today. 311 is in effect the front doorstep for millions of Chicagoans. It’s where people call for basic city services, for information to resolve problems, or even to report crimes, and the men and women who answer those calls need to be trained, skilled, and experienced. It’s especially disturbing that the mayor would push privatization with no oversight at the same time that the privatization ordinance we worked with the administration to develop has not yet been heard, passed, or implemented. So we have all those concerns about the potential to privatize 311, we’re going to be working with aldermen and reaching out to the public to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

David Hatch
The Reclaim Campaign, formerly Reclaim Chicago

“The city needs to raise revenue by taxing those who can afford to pay–the wealthy and corporations–rather than by nickle and diming average Chicagoans with red light cameras, garbage fees and the like. The Reclaim Campaign supports tax increases to the wealthy and corporations to fund pensions, schools and other investments in the common good. It appears that the property tax increase the mayor is proposing could be progressive, only so long as there are protections for working people via an exemption approved by state legislature and signed by the governor or via the rebate program proposed by the Progressive Caucus. We also urge Mayor Emanuel, all City Council members and every state legislator with constituents in Chicago to work with all urgency to pass the LaSalle Street financial transaction tax in Springfield.”

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35)
From Press Release

“Instead of delivering the ‘progressive’ budget we were promised, Mayor Emanuel unveiled more of the same with a budget proposal that continues to nickel and dime regular Chicagoans via a garbage fee, a massive property tax hike, and rideshare surcharges that amount to a giveaway to his brother–Uber investor Ari Emanuel. Mayor Emanuel’s 2016 budget proposal shows that he will continue to govern in the interest of the rich and big corporations, and not in the interest of Chicago’s working families and our neighborhoods. Emanuel’s budget shows us he lacks the political courage to ask his rich campaign contributors to pay their fair share.”

Dave Kreisman
Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 2500

On allowing Uber and Lyft to make pickups at O’Hare and Midway airports: “The Mayor’s proposal is a sweetheart deal for Uber, a $50 billion enterprise that doesn’t need another giveaway, but a job-killer for hard-working Chicago cab drivers. When corporations like Uber provide the same service as licensed cabs but don’t play by the same rules, they undercut public safety and jobs. Last week, our union released a plan to raise $65 million a year by requiring Uber to follow all the same rules as hard-working cab drivers.”

City Council Progressive Caucus
From Press release

“The nearly $600 million property tax increase will have a disproportionate impact on low-income homeowners and seniors. That is why we support the administration’s efforts to expand the Homestead Exemption in Springfield. But with no end in sight to the gridlock in Springfield, passage of the expanded exemption is not assured. That is why we are offering a meaningful rebate program for working families who own their homes. Our ordinance will be introduced at Thursday’s City Council meeting.”

Ald. Harry Osterman (48)
From Newsletter

“I’m very concerned about the magnitude of the proposed property tax and the effect it would have on renters, homeowners and small businesses in our community. My City Council colleagues and I will be spending the next month going through the budget process, and we will be working together to look for alternative ways to increase revenue to fund city government and provide important city services. I welcome your ideas and feedback.”

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32)
Sun Times Op-Ed

“Yes, the city’s fiscal crisis is real. Unfortunately, the solutions the mayor proposes–including a new garbage collection fee and a huge projected property tax increase–rely on taxes that will most heavily burden the working poor and middle class as well as small businesses. The mayor has taken some steps for which the City Council Progressive Caucus has long advocated, such as ending the risky and costly practice of “scoop and toss” bonding. But the mayor’s plan offers little to correct the imbalance which allows the ultra-wealthy and the giant corporate interests to reap huge rewards from doing business in our city, without paying their fair share. The onus for generating new revenue remains on the backs of the people who can least afford it.”

Rep. Will Guzzardi
Twitter: @willguzzardi

“Here’s my worry with the prop tax increase, even with exemptions: renters. Landlords could just pass increase on to tenants #chibudget2016”

We’ve confirmed that the Latino Caucus, Black Caucus, and Paul Douglas Alliance are each huddling Thursday to discuss their respective budget responses. We’ll report back with their comments in Friday’s newsletter.