By: Mark Glennon*
The Chicago City Council’s endorsement of Mayor Emanuel’s new budget “should be strong, even overwhelming, ” the Sun-Times editorialized this week.
Why? because the budget “will be a victory for a city finally determined to resolve its fiscal problems and move on and up,” they say. And because approval “would send a message to the business community that the business climate in Chicago just got a heck of a lot more stable and predictable.”
Nonsense. Rahm’s budget address was the most dishonest speech by a major American politician in memory. We cataloged some of the reasons why in our piece here. Neither the Sun-Times nor anybody else fact-checked the speech, which is very easy to do. It was so fictitious we rightly said it seemed as if it was written for a different city. The Sun-Times editorial writers likewise seem to be from of a different city.
Stability and predictability for the business community will result? Huge parts of the budget almost certainly won’t get needed authorization from Springfield; namely, the reduction in annual pension contributions and the expanded homestead exemption. The viability of the entire budget is therefore in doubt and next years tax bills are entirely unpredictable. For large buildings, the variance is in the millions of dollars. Unfunded pension liabilities will continue to grow, the city’s large deficit will continue (contrary to Rahm’s absurd claim that he’s been balancing the budget) and the crisis will continue.
The Sun-Times says the budget will “send a reassuring message to nervous and angry Chicagoans that these painful measures are necessary. There simply is no other way to fill an unfunded pension hole of $20 billion.” No. Chicagoans soon will realize the massive tax increase in the budget won’t come close to filling that pension hole. Higher taxes are a futile attempt to pay for unaffordable police and fire pensions, and that’s where the tax money is slated to go. A shock and awe budget and accompanying message are needed, along with the radical cost cutting measures we described here.
Chicagoans want a smaller budget and dramatic reform. They didn’t get it.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.