The Budget That Ate Chicago
It's big. Very big.
Chicago's 2005 Proposed Budget is about $180 million more than last year's spending and raises taxes all over the place -- except property taxes. The Chicago Tribune reports that this might actually be The Year of the Tax as the City struggles to pay off growing debt service and Cook County works to plug a $146 million budget gap.
What can we look forward to? According to the Trib:
- An increase in the amusement tax from 3 percent to 4 percent on tickets for live performances at venues of at least 750 seats (Tickets at smaller clubs are untaxed.) and from 7 percent to 8 percent for all other amusements, such as White Sox, Cubs and Bears games;
- An increase from 3 percent to 3.5 in the city hotel tax;
- A jump from 16 cents to 48 cents on a pack of cigarettes;
- An increase from $2.75 to $3.75 in the car-rental tax,
- And a 25-cent increase in the city's $2 parking tax.
And as the Sun-Times' Mark Brown points out, there really isn't much public (or Aldermanic, for that matter) out cry against the new taxes. So we can pretty much assume that the Mayor's new budget plan will pass wholesale.
But Brown makes another important point: almost all of the city's property taxes are going to pre-existing obligations, like pensions and debt service, rather than tradtional city services, like police, fire, and trash pickup. So now that every other tax has been raised, what happens in future years when big projects need cash? Projects like bridge rebuilding, new school construction, or O'Hare expansion? Well, you could either raise taxes, or...build a downtown casino!