CHICAGO (Nov 26, 2019)– On Tuesday, City Council voted on the Chicago FY2020 Budget. The City Council Progressive Reform Caucus members call for continued focus on progressive revenue measures and investments that advance social and economic justice for all Chicagoans.
“I’m supporting this budget because there are some major victories in it—we raised the minimum wage, expanded access to our libraries, saw no layoffs, and recovered more TIF funds than ever before. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said chair of the Chicago Progressive Caucus, Ald. Sue Sadlowski Garza (10).
In September, the caucus outlined a list of budget priorities, many of which were addressed in the final budget including increased investment in mental health services and affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, and creating revenue through rideshares.
“Throughout this budget process the administration has shown an unparalleled commitment to cooperation, accountability and transparency,” said Ald. Waguespack (32). “As legislators, we are working within a difficult and limited environment and it is clear that there is no shortage of work to right Chicago’s fiscal health. We are committed to doing just that through progressive means with a focus on equity.”
Throughout budget hearings, the Progressive Caucus has called for increased investments in mental health services and for those investments go to the city’s public clinics. The administration responded with commitments to add staff at the city clinics, pilot expanded hours of service, and invest in improvements to existing clinics.
“We were encouraged to see the increased investment in mental health services, but we need to get to a place where every Chicagoan knows they can meet with a therapist at a public health clinic if they need to. We are far from that. Investment here is not just about a compassionate public health response but also a matter of public safety,” said Ald. Maria Hadden (49).
During the hearings, caucus members also scrutinized various departments around city contracts asking if labor peace agreements were being upheld and whether their was racial and gender equity in contracting. Ultimately, the caucus called for the Inspector General’s office to do a full audit of city contracts.
“We asked tough questions of the City’s departments and commissions around parity and equity, but unfortunately we did not get comprehensive responses,” said Ald. Sophia King (4). “We’re fighting for a city in which everyone and every community can thrive, and ensuring our contracts guarantee racial and gender equity is a key step in making that vision a reality.”
While there were increased investments in housing, caucus members believe there is more the city could do to increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness.
“This year’s budget doesn’t do nearly enough to reverse the housing crisis that’s causing massive displacement in the very communities I represent and keeping 86,000 homeless people across our city without shelter this winter,” Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez said. “We need to fund programs that will keep families whole, our children safe, and our elderly warm.”
The Chicago Police Department budget was also under the microscope.
“We need to reign in CPD’s budget—from police overtime to settlements. A ‘balanced budget’ ensures we have an equitable and fair public response to the issues our residents are facing,” said Ald. Andre Vasquez (40). “A balanced approach to public safety ensures that everyone has shelter, that those struggling with mental illness have access to mental health services, and that every chicagoan has the opportunity to succeed in school and at work.”
With future budget shortfalls looming, the caucus has set its sights on a number of progressive revenue measures. Among them are TIF reform, PILOTs, a corporate head tax, and a sales tax on high-end professional services.
“While we applaud the administration’s use of surplussing to recover historic amounts of funding from TIFs, there is much to do to reform this system,” said Ald. Matt Martin (47). “The practice of TIF surplussing should be annualized via ordinance and the definition of blight tightened. Despite the progress we’ve made, Chicago will continue to face budget shortfalls in the future. Income from aggressive, annualized TIF surplussing will help us restore funds to essential services like schools and parks.”
Corporate Head Tax
“Everyone must pay their fair share, including wealthy corporations. I was disappointed—this budget has done little in asking wealthy businesses, who benefit from all the amenities of our city, to contribute. That was a sticking point for me and something I will relentlessly pursue moving forward,” said Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33).
Sales Tax on High End Professional Services
“We were disappointed there was not more progress in Springfield. In the future, we hope to better collaborate with both the administration and our downstate colleagues,” said Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22). “The city needs more progressive revenue, like a sales tax for high end professional services. Even with only modest growth in the use and cost of these services, the economic benefit to Chicago and cities across the state could be substantial.”
The Progressive Reform Caucus includes Ald. Daniel LaSpata (1); Ald. Sophia King (4); Ald. Leslie Hairston (5); Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6); Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10); Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16); Ald. David Moore (17); Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20); Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22); Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25); Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29); Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33); Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35); Ald. Felix Cardona, Jr. (31); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Ald. Andre Vasquez (40); Ald. Matt Martin (47); Ald. Maria Hadden (49).