In Budget Response, Progressive Caucus Calls for More Revenue, Police and Mental Health Services - NBC Chicago
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In Budget Response, Progressive Caucus Calls for More Revenue, Police and Mental Health Services

Caucus says city needs to balance budget and restore services beyond taxes and fees.



    The eight members of the Progressive Reform Caucus in the Chicago City Council today outlined their response to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2014 city budget, including calls for a redistribution of TIF funds, reopening shuttered mental health clinics, hiring more police and newer, more equitable sources of revenue.

    In its response, the caucus said the city needs alternative ways to balance its budget and restore needed services that go beyond increased taxes and fees. Mayor Emanuel’s 2014 budget has proposed revenues of $100 million in higher taxes, fees and fines, including $65 to $70 million in speed camera fines.

    “Although I appreciate the mayor’s initiatives trying to concentrate on children and safety, there was just not enough meat in the proposal we heard today,” Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6) told Ward Room. We’re talking about concentrating money for children for vision care and health care—all good things—but we’re basing that on money that does not exist.”

    Sawyer pointed to the fact that while the city’s share of cigarette taxes are going up, for example, the actual revenue collected has been going down in recent years as more and more cigarette sales have gone underground. The mayor has proposed a 75-cent per-pack raise in cigarette taxes, a move he expects to generate $10 million in additional revenue.

    “We’re hitting working class and lower middle class people with additional fees and taxes and service charges, with red light cameras and speed cameras, but it’s not really benefitting the average working class person in the city of Chicago,” Sawyer said.

    The caucus, which also includes Ald. Bob Fioretti (2), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), Ald. Toni Foulkes (15), Ald. Rick Munoz (22), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36) and Ald. John Arena (45), has opposed the mayor in the past on issues such as police hiring, revenues and distribution of social services.

    In particular, the caucus calls for:

    • At least $50,000,000 for the Chicago Police Department to hire 1,000 officers, to “bring its force up to the size needed to combat violence.”
    • An audit and sweep of TIF funds, including an $8.7 million surplus to help prevent further cuts to the city’s educational system.
    • Creating new and more equitable sources of revenue to ensure “corporate citizens contribute their fair share to the tax base.”
    • A full restoration of $2.2 million in funds for the reopening of the six public mental health clinics that were shuttered in 2012.

    Sawyer said the caucus is also looking at specific ways to generate what he sees as a more equitable distribution of revenue among corporations and individual taxpayers.

    “We’re looking for corporations and high income earners to pay their fair share to righting this city [financially],” he said. “The mayor did talk about things he’s alleviated for businesses—elimination of the head tax, certain incentives for businesses to come here—and that’s good. But we are constantly taxing and pricing regular citizens out of the market, out of the city of Chicago, and we have to change that.”

    The caucus is expected to hold a Community Town Hall on the city budget at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at United Electrical Workers Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave., to “hear feedback and concerns from Chicago residents” about the mayor’s proposed 2014 budget.