Six months ago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned that without state legislation to modify the structure of police and fire pensions and implement a “smart funding formula,” Chicago property tax bills would “explode” in 2016.
Today I report, the tax man hath arrived.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Now is the Time to Hike Taxes.
The “explosion” that Emanuel warned about in mid-March hit Chicago Tuesday as the mayor unveiled his $7.8 billion budget for 2016, and it wasn’t pretty — even with the risky assumption that Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign legislation giving Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to 90 percent funding of police and fire pensions.
Emanuel’s $712 million package of tax and fee hikes includes a four-year $588 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions and school construction; a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee; $13 million in higher fees for building permits; a $1 million tax on e-cigarettes and $48 million in fees and surcharges on taxicabs and ride-sharing services that have siphoned business away from them.
The phased-in property tax increase would be the largest in Chicago history. Even so, the garbage fee has emerged as the biggest lightning rod — and Emanuel fully understands why.
It’s a new fee for a service many homeowners believe, “is kind of baked in” to the normal property tax bill that would add $114 to the annual cost heaped on 613,000 Chicago owners of single-family homes, two-, three- and four-flats that still get city pickups. Senior citizens would get a 50 percent discount.
Emanuel said the dire alternative to a property tax increase is 2,500 police layoffs, 2,000 fewer firefighters, 48 fire station closings and twice-a-month garbage collection, instead of weekly pickups.
[Alderman Will] Burns agreed there is simply no other way out, but to place the burden squarely on homeowners — with both the $588 million property tax increase and the garbage collection fee.
“I am out of magic beans and magic pixie dust,” Burns said.
The Chicago Tribune reports Emanuel Paints Dire Future Without Record Property Tax Hike.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on the city’s 50 aldermen Tuesday to summon the courage to pass the largest property tax increase in modern Chicago history, and told them they could sell it to voters by painting a dire, if not quite dystopian, alternative.
If Emanuel cut the budget instead of raising taxes, then one out of five police officers would be dismissed. Half the fire stations shuttered. Rats would overrun graffiti-ridden alleys filled with overflowing Dumpsters as the city stopped rodent control and trash got picked up just twice a month. Streets would be riddled with even more potholes and little money to fix them.
“Our city would become unlivable,” Emanuel said. “That would be totally unacceptable.”
The reception was tepid, and at one point Emanuel had to repeat an applause line before the hand-clapping commenced.
The political reality is this: Emanuel is asking aldermen to put their jobs on the line and vote for a massive property tax hike while the mayor himself has not decided whether he too will face the voters again. Even if Emanuel does seek a third term, he has taken a step many politicians take: stack all the unpopular tax hikes and fee increases in the first year of the new term, the one furthest away from the next election.
Not Done Yet
Chicagoans beware! Emanuel explicitly warned he’s “not done raising property taxes“.
Emanuel also pledged “No Stone Unturned”.
“We are going to address our challenges, and I think when the governor looks at the whole budget he will see that we didn’t leave any stone unturned. It is fair, it is equitable. It’s progressive,” said Emanuel.
Not Fair, Not Equitable
What are taxes for if not services like garbage pickup, street sweeping, etc? The answer of course is untenable police, fire, and school pensions.
Yes, it’s “progressive” all right, “progressive idiocy“. Emanuel did not do, nor has he ever done anything to fix the structural problems.
The proper way to fix the school problem is for the school district to declare bankruptcy, a tactic Emanuel does not want to take.
Actually, the school district cannot take that action because Illinois does not allow municipal bankruptcies. However, if the mayor were behind the idea, it would likely pressure the Illinois legislature into action.
Emanuel claims he is being courageous. Passing tax hikes immediately after an election is not courageous. Admitting the school system is broke, unions are the reason, and taxpayers should not bear the brunt of the costs would be courageous.
Emanuel is both a coward and a pickpocket. With his dire warning about Chicago becoming unlivable, he is also a fear monger.
There is one thing you can count on, however. Emanuel is not yet done picking the pockets of Chicagoans. When Emanuel promised, “no stone unturned” you can bet your last tax dime on that.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock