This morning I voted to approve the Mayor's 2016 City Budget. While this is the most difficult vote I've ever faced as Alderman, it represents coming to terms with our city's fiscal crisis while winning key property tax relief and securing commitments to continue to reform our government.
As I've written in four budget updates, this year we are forced to confront decades of fiscal irresponsibility that has caused our crippling $12 billion pension liability.
Most people in our ward say they appreciate our city's precarious financial condition. At the same time, you told me you believe it is unfair to impose the cost of this budget solely on residential property tax payers. I pledged to you to fight for those constituents most threatened in this fiscal crisis while also guaranteeing that true fiscal reform continues even after the votes were counted.
After lengthy and difficult negotiations, I have secured a commitment from Mayor Emanuel and City Council to extend property tax relief to the people who helped build our neighborhoods, our long-term homeowners
Such relief will occur whether or not the homeowner's exemption is increased in Springfield. This commitment was unanimously adopted at today's meeting. (
This means our vulnerable households in the 43
Ward will not be destabilized as a result of the huge increases in value from the recent triennial reassessment.
My "yes" vote was also conditioned on a direct commitment from the Mayor to aggressively pursue major spending reforms. As one example, we will shortly convene a Task Force to expose the glaring problem of city worker absenteeism (absenteeism resolution), which could deliver millions in savings. Many other cost cutting ideas and revenue ideas surfaced during the budget hearings, and these will be pursued. Government reform is not settled in a single vote.
The heart of the dilemmna is our pension debt. As I've written
, Chicago is mandated to fund its $12 billion police and firefighter pension debt. While I deeply disagree with the State's
on pensions, a "no"
vote does not change that obligation and, in fact, it could ultimately cost taxpayers more. Failure to meet our responsibilities could reverse our economic recovery and further weaken our credit rating.
The question before City Council today was extremely difficult and abundantly clear. Do we take ownership of our City's finances for the first time in decades and move toward a firm economic future? Or, do we remain mired in the practices of the past and likely jeopardize the stability of our City? Having secured relief for our taxpayers, on behalf of you, I cast a vote for the future with a sincere pledge to continue to vigorously work to reform the government.
Thank you for your thoughtful feedback and participation at this critical moment in the history of our city. Let's continue to work together to move forward.