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Garcia Releases His Financial Plan

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 13, 2015 9:30PM

Calling the last four years of Rahm Emanuel budgeting a “fiscal tsunami,” mayoral challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia released his strategy for fixing Chicago’s financial woes. Garcia unveiled his plan at a morning press conference, offering an architecture of what his fiscal policy might look like that was a little light on the nuts and bolts.

The Commissioner laid Chicago’s fiscal burden squarely on Emanuel’s shoulders, saying the Mayor’s reliance on regressive fines and fees, “scoop and toss” borrowing practices, TIF mismanagement and habit of back room dealing on potential revenue generators has cost Chicagoans dearly. “Everyone understands that the fiscal crisis in Chicago is severe,” said Garcia. “This will be a top priority of mine.”

Garcia’s plan for avoiding what he calls the “fiscal cliff” Chicago faces relies on:

  • A comprehensive and independent audit of all City departments, along with a “whole Chicago” strategy of collaboration between governmental agencies which he says could mean $350 million in savings.
  • TIF reform, with keeping only TIFs needed to complete a specific project or if the project wouldn’t be viable without one, which he says could bring $150 million to the table.
  • Expanding participatory budgeting practices which already take place in 4 Wards and looking at new revenue options, which he said a committee would look at in his first 90 days in office.

Regarding the looming $550 million pension payment, Garcia said he would not support cutting benefits for current City employees or retirees “until we have a dialogue and an agreement of the stakeholders, including organized labor.” While he didn’t expressly rule out a property tax to cover expenses, when confronted with the question, Garcia said:

“I cannot, at this point, look at taxpayers in the eye and ask them to shoulder another burden before we have exhausted all other options and before we have looked at all possibilities and made sure that the very wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share of taxes.”

WGN reports Mayor Emanuel made an attempt to shrug off his challenger’s proposal in a statement:

“After four months of studying for the final exam, Chuy Garcia is telling Chicago voters he will hand in his homework after graduation. Today’s stonewalling says zero about what Chuy would do to fund pensions and the budget, or where he would find new revenue.”

While Garcia has taken heat for not being specific enough about details, Emanuel has offered little in the way of budgetary nuts and bolts either. Meanwhile, Chicago has seen several downgrades by Moody's in the last four years, the uses of TIFs as a slush fund for private developers and less than ethical methods of money management, some of which Rahm’s allies have directly profited from. Garcia's plan at least tackles some of the mayor's foibles while offering the possibility of alternative solutions.