The big takeaway from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2022 budget plan, which she delivered to the City Council in a passionate, one-hour address Monday, is what happens next year?
What happens when the $1.9 billion in federal Covid relief funding isn’t around to keep the “big, bold audacious” plans going?
A highlight of Lightfoot’s budget plan includes $31.5 million in monthly payments to low-income residents “in need of additional economic stability” in what she described as a “first-of-its-kind pilot in Chicago” and possibly the largest of its kind in the country.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) was stunned that the mayor’s proposal mirrors the guaranteed basic income ordinance that he has been pushing for the past six months without support from Lightfoot. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I don’t like our work being plagiarized. No es Bueno,” he told Playbook.
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office told us: “We’re glad to work with Chairman Villegas and other champions of direct cash programs to advance this historic policy.”
Next, aldermen will debate and discuss the plan before voting. “We have questions about some of the new initiatives, but I think it’s supporting people who need the most coming out of the pandemic and that’s the intent of the federal dollars,” Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.
And Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), often a critic of Lightfoot’s initiatives, said “We’re seeing policies resurrected from previous administrations, where you borrow and get by until it’s someone else’s problem.”
Lightfoot’s plan has no layoffs and there isn’t a big burden on taxpayers — a relief, says Ald. Derrick Curtis. He expects discussions in the coming weeks to focus on spending on initiatives. “We can’t keep putting the funds in the same place and look for different results.”
The proposal addresses various areas of public safety, including an 11 percent increase in spending for the Chicago Police Department and $135 million funding of violence prevention. Some progressives “quickly criticized” the mayor’s decision to increase police spending, reports WBEZ’s Mariah Woelfel.
The plan also allots $86 million for mental health services, $202 million to reduce homelessness, and $150 million for youth programming.
The savings, according to Lightfoot: $131 million from “improved fiscal management,” $25 million by “sweeping” old accounts, $21.6 million in health care savings, $46.2 million in lower-than-expected costs from the just-negotiated police contract, and $62.6 million from “improved revenue projections.”
As the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reports: “Once again, the mayor’s plan to eliminate her own budget shortfall includes offloading costs to Chicago Public Schools. This time, CPS will be asked to cover $75 million in pension costs for school administrators who draw their retirement checks from the Municipal Employees Pension Fund.”
Some good news: There’s a surplus of $271 million in tax increment financing funds, and CPS will see $150 million of that, while another $67 million will go to the city’s corporate fund.
Tribune’s Gregory Pratt and John Byrne remind: “Chicago’s structural deficit will also continue to grow in 2022 because of state-imposed requirements for the city to increase funding for its pension funds.”
“The devil is in the details,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). “We just got the budget book and detailed proposals and we’re going line by line to assess if this is the investment plan our community needs.”
Between the big federal windfall and the lack of a property tax hike, the mayor’s budget plan is expected to have an easier go than last year’s proposal, which passed the council on a 29 to 21 vote and included a $94 million property tax hike.
— Lightfoot’s goal: ‘a safer, strong and more prosperous city’ via Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman
— 2022 Budget Overview (all 212 pages), from the mayor’s office
— American Rescue Plan Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Detail, from the mayor’s office.