CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget plan for 2021 cleared another key hurdle on Thursday, as the Budget Committee easily passed her spending plan, one day after the Finance Committee approved her tax package by a narrower vote.
The mayor’s $12.8 billion spending plan sailed through the Budget Committee on a 26-8 vote after Lightfoot agreed to remove plans for 350 layoffs. Instead, the city will borrow against future marijuana tax revenues to make up for the $15 million in savings that had been expected from the layoffs.
Lightfoot’s budget team also agreed to scale back plans to require furlough days for non-union employees. Non-union workers earning $100,000 a year or more will be required to take five unpaid furlough days in 2021. The original plan called for furlough days for any non-union staff earning at least $50,000 a year.
However, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) lamented that non-union Chicago Police Department employees were exempted from the furlough days.
Budget Director Susie Park said it would be too difficult to require those furlough days at CPD given their operational needs, claiming they needed the exemption to maintain flexibility, but Hairston said CPD was not exempted from other furloughs in prior years.
“They haven’t been exempted in the past, and they were able to function back then,” she said.
Ultimately, though, Hairston was among the aldermen who voted in favor of the mayor’s spending plan.
Aldermen also praised the Lightfoot administration for agreeing to increase funding for violence prevention programs from $26 million to $36 million in 2021.
“There’s been significant improvements to the original budget that’s been presented to us, particularly as it relates to violence prevention. Most importantly, to what we hear about the layoffs going away, what we see in the layoffs going away. That’s very important for my base, it’s very important for my community, and I’m glad that’s there,” Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said.
The eight aldermen who voted against Lightfoot’s spending plan were Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), and Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th).
Ramirez-Rosa said he recently conducted a survey of his constituents, and of the more than 400 who responded, the vast majority wanted to decrease the budget for the Chicago Police Department, and opposed the $94 million property tax hike included in the mayor’s revenue package approved by the Finance Committee on Wednesday.
“So unfortunately, I cannot support this budget at this time,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
Ramirez-Rosa said the mayor’s spending plan also should have included more funding for homelessness prevention.
“Unfortunately this budget, at a time when we have rising homelessness, when so many people in our communities are seeing the impact of COVID-19 in their household incomes, this budget fails to include $12 million in funding for homelessness that was supported by the Progressive Caucus and the Latino Caucus,” he said.
Ramirez-Rosa also pushed back on Lightfoot’s plan to spend $1 million on two different pilot programs for responding to calls for mental health emergencies; one a co-responder model that would see both police and mental health professionals respond to such calls, and a separate “Treatment Not Trauma” model favored by progressive aldermen that would have only trained mental health professionals respond, not police. Ramirez-Rosa said dedicating only $1 million to be split between the two models was “wholly insufficient.”
The vote sets the stage for the full City Council to take a final vote on the mayor’s full budget plan as soon as next week. The 26 votes approving her spending plan on Thursday are the bare minimum needed for full Council approval.
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Source: CBS Chicago