Look Chuy...cut the crap and tell me where you are going to cut spending, raise taxes or issue bonds to cover the upcoming $2 billion City of Chicago deficit?
--What Chicago wants to know from Chuy
The BGA's Andy Shaw got his crack at Chicago Mayor candidate and Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia on Friday morning and Shaw came up short.
What Chicago's taxpayers/voters and viewers of the Shaw interview of Garcia most wanted to know is how will Chuy deal with a 2 billion dollar shortfall for the City over the course of the next fifteen months, or so.
That is, the City of Chicago fiscal 2016 budget ($7.3 billion) is running currently at a deficit of about $300 million; an unfunded $550 million Chicago police/firefighter pension payment is coming due soon, and the CPS 2016 fiscal year budget (about $6 billion) is running at about a $1.1 billion deficit.
So, the next Mayor, Rahm or Chuy, will have to deal, over the next 15 months, or so, with the issues of either cutting 2 billion dollars in spending from the City of Chicago or CPS budgets, raising city or CPS taxes by 2 billion dollars, issuing bonds in that amount, some combination of those actions, or do the equivalent of pulling a "Rabbit out of a hat."
Technically, the CPS 6 billion dollar budget is under the control of an independent 7 person Chicago School Board, but those board members are all appointed by the Mayor-- so in large part, the Chicago Mayor has ultimate responsibility for CPS.
Similarly, as Chuy pointed out (implicitly) in the interview by Shaw (who had been the ABC-7 News political editor for more than three decades before he took the helm at the BGA), the Mayor has de facto, if not formal, control over TIFs, as he does over the Chicago Park District and City Colleges, which have their own separare budgets.
So, Shaw's job was to get an answer from Chuy Garcia detailing Chuy's financial plan to solve Chicago's fiscal crisis. As you can see-- in the partial transcript, below-- Andy Shaw just gave up on getting an answer from Mayoral Candidate Garcia on these important issues after fewer than five minutes of trying, and turned to asking Chuy about legalizing and taxing Marijuana in the next year-- as if that could happen and be a significant part of solving a 2 billion dollar shortfall in the next 15 months.
Give me a break, Andy.
Next time, keep pounding on the important stuff, as you used to do when you were a journalist. [For a look at Andy Shaw being interviewed on State issues by Berkowitz, click here. ]
--What Andy Shaw should have asked
What Shaw should have asked Chuy, after being stonewalled by Chuy for five minutes on Chuy's lack of a financial plan for the City [you can watch the whole Shaw interview here] were these four questions:
Question 1: Look Chuy, nobody, on replacing a publicly elected official in any jurisdiction in this country, has ever discovered significant savings, certainly not $2 billion, by doing a new audit, so cut the crap and tell me where you are going to cut spending, raise taxes or issue bonds to cover the upcoming $2 billion City of Chicago budget deficit?
Question 2: Since Chicago Teacher Union ("CTU") President Karen Lewis twisted your elbow to get you to replace her as a Mayoral candidate [Fox's [WFLD] political editor Mike Flannery showed a clip in the last two months on Fox 32 Sunday of Lewis telling Flannery that]; and the CTU and other teacher unions are providing you with massive financial and other campaign support, aren't you likely to support a transaction tax on Chicago financial institutions, as Ms. Lewis does.
Question 3: Since your fellow traveler and supporter, Ald. Bob Fioretti, supports an income tax on individuals who work in Chicago but live in the Chicago suburbs, aren't you likely to try to implement that tax as well?
Question 4: Since the financial institution transaction tax and suburban commuter income tax won't solve your two billion dollar City of Chicago budget problem, and the TIF funds and casino tax revenue to which you alluded this morning won't be enough or achievable soon enough to solve Chicago's budget problems--and you aren't going to slash spending significantly-- aren't Chicago property owners right to expect big-time property tax increases under a Chuy Garcia administration?
--In Chuy's own words
An almost verbatim transcript of the portion of the 28 minute Shaw interview of Cook County Cmsr. Chuy Garcia that runs from 3:30 to 8:30 is included, below:
Andy Shaw [BGA]: ... A lot of people are saying it is hard to take it on faith that your are going to be able to solve the [City of Chicago's] financial problems. They would like to know what your solution would look like.
--The "Books" are cooked
Cmsr. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia [Chicago mayoral candidate]: ... We owe it to taxpayers to arrive at a solid baseline of what the revenues are, where they are going. where they shouldn't be going before we talk about increasing new revenues and taxes. Regardless of what that's going to be, we need a solid baseline. If we have learned anything over the past four years from this administration, [it] is that there is good reason to think that the books are cooked. I will not use that as a baseline. We need to open the books. We need to show Chicago taxpayers exactly what the real picture is. We need audits. There haven't been audits done of the City's finances of the departments in the City of Chicago. We need to arrive there. You know, I don't know why that sounds so radical. Other cities do it. And, we need an independent verification of where our true financial picture is.
Andy Shaw [BGA]: Right, you talk about audits. And, yet, a group of the Mayor's supporters--some aldermen and Susana Mendoza, the [City] Clerk had a news conference yesterday and I think they brought a prop along of some big audit books. They basically said the City's books are audited every year, Inspector General Joe Ferguson has done multiple audits of spending in various City departments, so what is Chuy Garcia talking about?
--The missing audits
Cmsr. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia: They need to be independently verified. I understand that supporters of the Mayor are going to engage in showboating and putting on all kinds of spectacles including bringing binders with all kinds of pages. That doesn't provide that. The fact of the matter is-- it hasn't been done. It will be done under my administration. We need to open the books and before we ask taxpayers to shoulder any additional tax increases, they need to know where the current revenues are going, where they need to be stopped in terms of going-- like tax increment financing dollars [TIFs] for the rich and powerful to do projects in areas that are not blighted. That's the practice that will end in my administration.
-- Revenue options?
Andy Shaw [BGA]:Okay, I won't badger you for a financial solution-- revenue wise--because I know it's not reasonable to do that, you're not going to provide one, but let's play it a little bit differently...what revenue options will you be looking most seriously at...what would be your top three choices of [revenue] options
-- Chuy's financial plan: an Expert Panel
Chuy Garcia: Look, I will appoint an expert panel to look at a host of revenue options once I am elected so that we can take a hard look at that. There will be many things that will not be off the table as we make those difficult decisions, perhaps even things...like potentially casino gambling in Chicago cannot be yanked off the table-- the situation is so dire that we can't do that right now, we owe it to the taxpayers
Andy Shaw [BGA]:Someone said I should ask you if we should legalize Marijuana and tax it and try to use that as a revenue source.
The above is a partial transcript-- from 3:30 to 8:30-- of the 28 minute interview by Andy Shaw which was cablecast live in Chicago on CANTV, Ch. 27 and streamed on CANTV.org from 11:15 am to 11:43 am on this past Friday morning. A video of the full interview is also linked to, above.
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Tags: 2015 Chicago firefighter and police pension payments, 2015 Chicago mayoral election, 2016 chicago budget shortfall, Ald. Bob Fioretti, Andy Shaw, BGA, CANTV, Chicago $550 million pension payment, Chicago property tax increases, Chuy Garcia, CPS 2016 budget deficit, CTU President Karen Lewis, Fiscal 2016 City of Chicago budget deficit, Jeff Berkowitz, power of Chicago's teacher union, Public Affairs, Rahm Emanuel, Shaw interview of Chuy Garcia, Taxing Chicago's financial transactions. Chicago suburban commuter tax