Civic Federation President Calls Mayor Lightfoot’s $16.7 Billion Budget Plan ‘Good News,’ But Some Aldermen Aren’t Sold On Specifics

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday laid out her $16.7 billion budget proposal in front of the City Council.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, some are calling the mayor’s proposal a good-news budget despite a massive shortfall of $733 million. And the mayor’s goals are lofty when it comes to the hundreds of millions of dollars she wants to invest in new programs, courtesy of the federal government.

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Priority number one continues to be closing that budget gap.

“And we propose to do this without any new taxes, no reduction in city services, and no layoffs,” Mayor Lightfoot said in her budget announcement.

The second priority is investing in more than half a dozen new programs to help combat violence and enhance mental health services, affordable housing, and job creation.

“There’s good news,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation. “The mayor is delivering good news today.”

Chicago is getting $1.9 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funding to help the city recover from the coronavirus pandemic’s hard fiscal hit. It is providing the fiscal cushion for many of Mayor Lightfoot’s proposals, which include spending $400 million on community safety programs – including a $10 million victim support initiative and funneling more money to the police officer wellness program.

That program is especially important to Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th).

“I think the devil’s in the details,” Villegas said.

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And those details are yet to come.

The mayor also wants to spend $240 million, in part, to create 4,000 affordable housing units, as well as $52 million on mental health initiatives.

North Side Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who was just attacked this weekend by a man he says has a long history of arrests and mental illness issues, is not yet sold.

“I want to make sure whatever we approve is going to produce results,” Cappleman said.

But shrouded in the budget is an automatic property tax hike – passed last year and tied to inflation – which some aldermen are grumbling about repealing. Budget Committee Chair Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), said without that hike, “It means we have to find $20 (million) to $22 million to replace that lost revenue.”

The mayor is also proposing a basic income assistance program, which would give $500 a month to low-income families.

The City Council has to approve any new budget.

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One concern already is what happens when that federal money disappears.

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