The Chicago City Council has voted to approve a new budget.
The city's aldermen voted 46-3 on Thursday to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel's $8.3 billion spending plan. Emanuel has said the budget will put more police officers on Chicago's streets and more kids in early childhood education without raising taxes or fees. It also includes plans to cut 275 jobs, some of which the mayor's office said already are vacant.
The aldermen were overwhelmingly full of praise for the mayor's budget, which does not include either new taxes or new fees. 14th Alderman Ward Alderman Burke called it the easiest budge vote of his 43-year career.
But unlike last year, the mayor’s budget did not pass unanimously. 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack, 33rd Ward Alderman John Arena and 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti all voted against. Of the three, only Fioretti made a statement, point to the privatization of city jobs, inconclusive discussions on CPD staffing and issues of transparency. "The budget may be fiscally sound," Fioretti said, "but our priorities may be wrong. We need that healthy discussion on the issues not just today, but at every meeting."
Even the aldermen who voted yes weren't entirely satisfied. Most of those who spoke were concerned about crime rates. Alderman Pat Dowell wasn't sure whether the issue was more cops or a more strategic deployment of the existing staff, but she emphasized that she and other aldermen expect further attention to crime issues in their wards.
9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale had another concern. "There's only one thing in this budget that concerns me,and it's out of our control," he said, "and that is if Springifeld does not act on pension reform." Governor Quinn said Wedensday that after conversations with House Minority Leader Tom cross, he is confident that they will complete pension reform by the January 9th deadline. But Beale added, "I don't want to have to come back and have to amend this budgetand hurt the hard working men and women of this city by raising their taxes.
For his part, 33rd Ward Alderman Richard Mell said legislators in Springfield struggling to make tough decisions should look to history for inspiration. I just had the opportunity to see the movie Lincoln. I think we should bring them all there and let them watch that. What they wrestled with - the 13th amendment - and how they patched that together, the courage that they had to take votes would cost them their careers," he said.
The 2013 budget closes a nearly $300 million deficit for the city. The budget relies on an expectation of continued improvement in the economy, including growth in income and hotel taxes.