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Council Committee Approves Mayor's Budget

By Kevin Robinson in News on Nov 9, 2010 3:00PM

Despite speculation that Mayor Daley's impending retirement from the position of Mayor for Lifeā„¢ might lead to City Council meddling with his budget, it was instead approved by the City Council’s Budget Committee Monday. With only one amendment, restoring $3.5 million in funding cuts to local chambers of commerce and other neighborhood planning groups, the budget passed committee. A final vote on the budget by the entire council is set for November 17th.

Critics have charged that the proposed budget relies too heavily on one-time revenue charges, raiding the proceeds from the city's parking meter and Skyway leases, and refunding a portion of the city's TIF program back to the schools. But the $6.15 billion budget also levies no increases in taxes, fees or fines, which would have been unlikely in an election year anyway. As a result of the budget uncertainty in Chicago, Standard & Poor's lowered the city's bond rating on general obligation debt to A+ rating, down one notch from AA-, and an A+ rating, also lowered from AA- to over $800 million in general obligation refunding and taxable project bonds.

Those lowered ratings mean an increase in the cost of borrowing for the city. Noting the lowered bond rating, Lawrence Msall of the watchdog group Civic Federation told the Tribune that “the city’s short-sighted budgeting has costly consequences.”

34th Ward Alderman and Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin told the Sun-Times that she thought the budget was sound. “I think they’ve done a yeoman’s job. To coin a phrase that (convicted former ) Ald. (Ike) Carothers used, ‘This was heavy lifting,’” she said. When asked if using city asset lease proceeds to balance the budget was smoke-and-mirrors, leaving the mess for the next mayor and council to deal with, Austin replied that “I don’t believe in smoking in the mirrors."