Your NPR news source

Daley's Budget Sparks Debate, but Passes

SHARE Daley's Budget Sparks Debate, but Passes
Daley's Budget Sparks Debate, but Passes

After nearly three hours of teasing, pleading, strong-arming and posturing, the Chicago City Council yesterday approved Mayor Richard Daley’s budget for 2008. But aldermen were deeply split over tax and fee increases. While Daley did get his way, it wasn’t close to the overwhelming approval his budgets have gotten in the past.

Daley’s budget came in at $5.9 billion. To pay for it, the mayor packed on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in added fees and taxes. Those included everything from additional taxes on things like beer, bottled water and anything leased. Also among the increases was the biggie, an $83 million hike in the city’s property tax. As expected, Daley’s wide array of tax hikes drew a wide array of opposition.

MOORE: Average taxpayers are carrying far more than their fair share of the burden.

Joe Moore was one of several aldermen who said Daley’s taxes hit citizens too hard without going after businesses. He also said the city doesn’t have the credibility to ask taxpayers for more after years of corruption scandals.

MOORE: How many parking tickets must be written to cover the $10 million in legal fees that have already been spent to defend Jon Burge and his cohorts? How many red light runners must be caught on camera to make up for the $40 million a year that was spent on do nothing hired trucks? Others who took the mic to oppose Daley’s taxes laid out more reasons.

FOULKES: Thank you... um...

Toni Foulkes was one of them.

FOULKES: We talk about schools. We got some of the worst schools in my area.

Foulkes said she couldn’t vote for more revenue because historically her southside ward hasn’t gotten its share of benefits.

FOULKES: I visited Henderson school. They did not have one roll of toilet paper from the first floor, I believe, to the third floor. Not one roll of toilet paper.

Besides that, said Foulkes, her residents just can’t afford more taxes.

FOULKES: I can tell you the names and numbers and addesses of people who don’t have gas and light.

Foulkes said she was worried about aldermen who said her ward would be punished if she voted no. And her voice shook as she looked at Mayor Daley to tell him that’s how she would vote.

FOULKES: Mayor they just don’t have it to give.

Still, supporters of the mayor’s budget and his taxes increases got their shots in too.

CAROTHERS: How can you afford not to pay?Ike Carothers said it broke down like this.

CAROTHERS: I gotta tell you like it is.

He said it was either raise taxes, or cut city services. Carothers applauded those who would take the criticism that would come with voting to raise taxes, particularly the property tax.

CAROTHERS: There’s a lot of heavy lifting some of us will do today. And I’m going to do some heavy lifting today.

Carothers ridiculed those who would vote no, but who would get to use the extra money if others voted yes.

CAROTHERS: You going to get that phone call about all the various services that you need. And thank god for all the people in this council who did some heavy lifting for you. Thank God!

Debate dragged out like that for nearly three hours, until Daley gaveled the vote.

DALEY: Clerk call the roll.

The aldermen broke Daley’s budget down into a number of different votes. The budget passed 36-to-14. And the property tax hike, which got its own vote, passed by a thinner margin of 29-to-21. Even some of Daley’s closest allies were among the no votes.

DALEY: You think I want to raise taxes, you think any way you want to raise any taxes?

Daley said the narrow margin on the property tax didn’t bother him so much. But it did bother him that some people voted for the overall budget... and then voted against the property tax that helped pay for it.

DALEY: You vote for the spending but you don’t vote for the revenue.

Like Carothers, he was sure all of the aldermen would take advantage of the revenue his taxes would bring in.

DALEY: Well you know they’ll be calling me tomorrow. Please do this. Please do this. I need this, I need that. I mean, I mean.

After yesterday’s vote, a first-term aldermen was heading out of city hall. She had changed her mind at the last minute, and voted for Daley’s property tax hike. She said she did it because she really believed it was the best thing for the people her ward. She said now, she’ll have to wait to see if that was true.

I’m Ben Calhoun, Chicago Public Radio.

The Latest