Daley's budget non-solutions

This should be rich. Mayor Richard Daley on Wednesday will reveal how he will magically make a half-billion-dollar city budget deficit disappear.

Be
sure to watch the magic show, beginning at 10 a.m. in the City Council
chambers as the city's chief prestidigitator employs his best-ever
sleight of hand to evaporate a $519.7 million (or whatever the latest
number is) budget deficit without a tax increase.
The budget
he'll present, he said in a statement, "will not include an

daley.jpg

Why is this man laughing?

increase in
the property tax and will not include any new tax, fine or fee increase
or any new tax, fee or fine of any kind."

I guess that covers
everything. So, with his 35 percent approval rating, Daley finally
figures that he can no longer nettle taxpayers any more than he already
has. Now the question becomes: Which of his other constituencies will
he have to cross? Organized labor and public employee unions? The
leeches who land politically sponsored jobs requiring little or no
work? The insiders looking for a return on their generous campaign
contributions?

Judging from his remarks at a news conference Monday, probably none of these.

Daley
lays the city's budget problems on the recession, which has cut
substantially into revenues generated from taxes, licenses and other
sources. That's certainly true; corporate revenues have declined,
according to the preliminary budget that he released months ago, from
$3.2 billion in the 2009 budget to $2.8 billion projected for the
fiscal year beginning Jan. 1.

But you might also expect
expenditures would also decline. Families are cutting their budgets,
eating out less, buying cheaper clothes, skipping vacations and so
forth. Silly me. This is government; this is Chicago government.
Instead of reducing expenditures, Daley expects them to rise in fiscal
year 2010 by 5.2 percent, to $3.3 billion.

Because personnel
accounts for some 80 percent of city expenditures, you would be right
to find the reason for the increase in labor costs. The preliminary
budget identifies those costs as stemming from wage and health care
increases, much of them required by labor contracts. Also to blame is
the city having to subsidize the debt service for funds that go into
employee pension funds. Special funds also have seen cost increases,
such as the 5.9 percent increase at O'Hare International Airport.

The
administration will point out that nonpersonnel expenses in the budget
have declined across the board, except for costs of those beloved
red-light cameras.

Daley asserts that his administration acted
more quickly and boldly than other cities that now are facing cuts in
police and fire service. Last year, he said, Chicago cut more than $168
million in spending, and this year another $59 million. More cuts are
to come, he said, but as of this writing, it's not clear where. Police
services consume the largest slice of the budget -- 35 percent or $1.2
billion -- but that's supposedly sacrosanct. Money to finance pension
funds will consume $459 million and paying the interest on long-term
debt $476.5 million.

This is a mess. Scads of money will come
from the reserves created by the multibillion-dollar Chicago Skyway and
parking meter deals. Daley argues this is just the kind of "rainy day"
that the money has been reserved for. A more apt comparison is
borrowing against your house to buy food, or "living out of your attic"
(i.e. selling your assets to pay your gas bill).

Civic
Federation President Laurence Msall has pointed out that "the use of
this one-time revenue source won't be available for next year or future
years' operating deficits, when we are likely to be in a similar
position with an even lower credit rating." Ald. Joe Moore, 49th,
called it "mortgaging" Chicago's future.

Instead of trotting out
the usual legerdemain Wednesday, Daley could make history by telling
the council, "The voodoo budgets stop here. We're in this mess not just
because of the recession, but because of the corrupt and wasteful way
we operate.

"Kowtowing to the public employee unions will stop
now. No more clouting jobs and contracts. All you bloodsuckers lined up
outside my door, go somewhere else and get a real job, like the honest
citizens you sponge off of."

Paramedics would immediately be
summoned by incredulous aldermen believing that the mayor had lost his
mind. But he might earn some respect from voters and taxpayers.

Comments

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  • Cut the mayor and alderworms salary to zero, they make enough in kickbacks.

  • Olympic What If

    What if Chicago did win the Olympics. What rabbit would Mayor Daley have pulled out of his hat to get through the budget deficit problem AND fund the Chicago Olympics.

    I'd like to see a blog or news article on that story.

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