Emanuel’s 2014 Chicago budget filled with more fees, fines and taxes

Emanuel’s 2014 Chicago budget filled with more fees, fines and taxes
Protests in City Hall against the closure of six mental health clinics. Photo by sierraromeo [sarah-ji]/flickr.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Wednesday morning speech announcing his proposed 2014 budget lauded the tough decisions and important investments he is putting forward to balance the city’s $339 million budget deficit. Emanuel said that one of his goals would be to remove the divide, both symbolic and real, between downtown Chicago and the neighborhoods.

“I believe the old model between downtown and the neighborhoods no longer applies,” said Emanuel, addressing a City Council that applauded after every few pronouncements.

There’s little argument that there are two Chicago’s, with differing resources, opportunities and even health outcomes, depending on which one an individual is lucky or unlucky enough to come from.

But a consensus on how to close that gap is another story. Previous budget seasons saw protests from groups including the Mental Health Movement, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Grassroots Collaborative arguing that budget-saving measures like closing half of the city-run mental health clinics, a budget proposal made real in 2012, would have detrimental effects on the city’s neighborhoods.

Here are some of Emanuel’s main proposals in the new budget:

  • A proposed $1.43 increase in the cigarette tax to fund outreach to enroll Chicago Public Schools students in Medicaid and eye-screening programs
  • Phasing out funding of healthcare benefits for some retirees at an expected savings of $24 million in 2014
  • Fines from red light parking cameras, parking tickets and other parking enforcement are expected to bring in $76 million more in 2014 than 2013
  • A daily $3 fee for all taxicabs operating in Chicago

The Chicago Reporter caught up with Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, after the budget address in City Hall.

Patel was unimpressed with the mayor’s cost-cutting proposals, citing the increased cigarette tax, and the fee for taxi cabs, as examples of regressive taxation.

“Our neighborhoods need more money in our pockets, not to put the burden of the budget on Chicago residents in the version of fees and fines,” said Patel, whose organization recently released a report finding that few new jobs in the Loop actually went to Chicago residents, even though their tax dollars were used for subsidy programs. “We need to stop the corporate welfare of projects like the DePaul stadium instead.”

In what has become a regular pattern, the City Council’s Progressive Reform Coalition will host a town hall to hear concerns about the budget at 7 p.m. Wed., Oct. 30 at the UE Hall, 37 S. Ashland Ave. The City Council also will hold a hearing in its chambers at 10 a.m. on Mon., Oct. 28.


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  • Looks like the war between the underclasses is starting, with those griping about regressive taxes and fees vs. those griping that government services are being cut. Then you have today 3rd Ward Alderperson Dowell suggesting a $25 bike registration fee, apparently to be paid by lakefront and northside yuppies, which her ward does not contain.

    I don't know if the McCormick Place Convention Center Arena is worth the investment of TIF funds (along with DePaul money), but any resulting amusement tax revenue would go back to Chicago instead of Rosemont, and maybe some jobs, too.

    Also, there were news articles yesterday that raising the cigarette tax does not result in more revenue, because either, as the liberals want, smokers quit, or they buy their cigs in Indiana. Either way, Emanuel is not going to get the funds to use as he indicates.

    Maybe you should join Emanuel's call for pension reform, but your supporters in the CTU aren't going to buy that.

    If people don't support real structural reform, it is going to turn out like the former metropolis about 330 miles east on I-94 has, and then there probably won't be enough populace left to fight over service cuts and tax increases.

  • So your solution will be to vote Rahm and his ilk into office again and again. You have no room to complain. You have gotten what you voted for.

  • Maybe the Muckrakers can investigate today's Sun-Times story that "pot decriminalization," i.e. budgeted fines are not bringing in the projected revenue, because stoners just seem to forget them. Then consider the difficulty in trying to enforce the proposed bike license fee.

    These projected fees are running into the area of diminishing returns, a concept with which I'm sure you are not familiar.

    Now if, instead of talking "decriminalization," they were talking "legalization" and taxing it, that might be a different story.

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    I am sick of this. I am sick and tired of this city taking more and more of our money but not giving us anything in return. City services never improve and neither do our paychecks, we still need to borrow money to make the ends meet! Cut spending and over-inflated city salaries and pensions.

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