City Budget & Revenue
BRANDON JOHNSON'S PLAN TO STOP PROPERTY TAX HIKES
With Brandon Johnson’s BETTER CHICAGO AGENDA, Chicago will make $1 billion in new investments to build a safer, stronger city – all without raising property taxes.
Currently, property taxes increase when inflation increases – meaning our housing affordability crisis will only get worse.
It doesn't have to be this way. We can make Chicago safer, grow Chicago businesses, create good jobs, strengthen public schools for all of our kids, protect our environment, improve mental health, and fix our broken transportation system – without raising property taxes.
This is Brandon Johnson’s plan to stop property tax hikes and invest $1 billion in a better Chicago:
Stop Raising Property Taxes
Any plan to invest in Chicago can only be considered serious if it achieves a balanced budget. Anything less is just another empty promise. The same is true for any plan that would increase property taxes on Chicagoans. Our city faces a housing crisis, and raising property taxes would only exacerbate that crisis, leading to a death spiral for our city.
As mayor, Brandon Johnson will not raise property taxes on Chicago families. Property taxes are already painfully high, and as mayor, Johnson will not raise them further.
Eliminate the Structural Deficit
The Chicago budget is structurally imbalanced. Chicago begins every year in a fiscal death valley dug by decades of malfeasance.Instead of looking at the long-term, city leaders have chosen various one-time, short-term solutions. As a result, Chicago’s corporate structural deficit will start at approximately $500 million next year, growing to roughly $600 million the following year.
In addition, general and pension debt service will require higher amounts each year than the year before. Roughly $250 million is required above currently budgeted amounts simply to keep this debt from growing. In sum, a long-overdue fiscal responsibility plan for the city would set aside roughly $1 billion each year simply to pay for, and to overcome, past mistakes. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will eliminate this structural deficit, clearing the deck to make historic new investments in Chicagoans.
Mandate Budget Transparency
Leadership means telling people the truth. Chicago has seen a stunning lack of leadership from an administration that refuses to be honest about running up debt, failing to meet long-term obligations, and underfunding long-term needs. Brandon Johnson will end those politics of yesterday and present the people of Chicago an honest, transparent budget. No more tricks, no more kicks of the can down the road, no more hiding the ball.
In order to build a better Chicago, we must start with more transparent and honest budgeting that ends the trickery. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will develop long-term budget projections that cover the full timeline of eliminating all of Chicago’s debt, report the costs of paying off our debt and pension obligations in annual budgets, compute how much the City is spending in total on all operations, compute how much the City is spending on dozens of separate “special” and enterprise funds, and allocate the full costs of labor – including benefits – and the full costs of overhead and operations for every department. We must also be honest and clear about our Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to not only make sure they are used for economic development, but also regularize when and how much the city can recoup excess funds.
A true, democratic budget must have checks and balances. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will work with the City Council – not bully and berate elected officials – to build a better budget. That means empowering the City Council as equal partners to produce meaningful change in City government.
Audit Inefficient Spending to Save Half a Billion
As mayor, Brandon Johnson will launch a full-scale efficiency review of Chicago’s government. State and local governments across the country have taken this step. Inefficient spending is siphoning off millions and millions of tax dollars paid by working class Chicagoans.
While a full audit is likely to discover even more efficiencies across the government, as mayor, Brandon Johnson will save over half a billion dollars with the efficiencies found in a full-scale audit of inefficient spending. Just for starters, repeated studies have found that cutting top-heavy administration to achieve the nationally recommended 10:1 worker to supervisor ratio would save the City roughly $150 million while cutting red tape. We could save another $20 million a year in IT costs alone.
Other studies show that making our public safety efforts more efficient and targeted toward stopping crime, such as using more civilians in place of sworn officers where possible and streamlining non-sergeant supervisory positions like public relations specialists and graphic artists will save over $100 million alone – redeploying those resources to support officers on our streets, not on desk duties. Further efficiency can be found by eliminating duplicative reporting to reduce unnecessary paper processing costs and by utilizing retired CPD employees for part-time or temporary staffing needs to minimize the cost of training and benefits.
As a union organizer, Brandon Johnson knows the importance of guaranteeing quality health care for all of Chicago’s public workers. The City currently spends roughly half a billion dollars on the employee health insurance plan, but Chicago has failed to implement a comprehensive plan to address health care costs, like cities across the country have.A comprehensive plan could save the city $150 million a year without affecting employees’ benefits or quality of care.
A mayor who can work with state and county partners can help improve government programs while spreading the cost to a larger pool. Partnering with Cook County Health on expanded mental health services can save $10 million while providing better mental health care.
As mayor, Brandon Johnson will implement these efficiencies for a half billion in savings from doing the city’s business better, not less. A full-scale review from the fifth floor can certainly identify even more.
Make the Suburbs, Airlines & Ultra-Rich Pay Their Fair Share
Brandon Johnson’s Better Chicago Agenda is about building a stronger Chicago for everyone, and that starts with tax fairness and economic justice. We must address our deficit while making new investments in Chicago, and that requires ending special interest tax breaks and making sure those who profit from our city pay their fair share.
While big corporations and the ultra-rich should pay their fair share of taxes, even these taxes must be strategic: We must tax non-Chicagoans before we tax our own residents. We should raise revenues from activities that won’t leave and cost us jobs.
All in all, Brandon Johnson’s tax fairness plan will make the suburbs, airlines & ultra-rich pay their fair share to generate an estimated $800 million in new revenue. The suburban tax base utilizes Chicago’s infrastructure to earn their disproportionately higher income, yet their taxes fund already wealthy towns.
For nearly 40 years, Chicago generated revenue from big businesses through a head tax while simultaneously experiencing historic economic growth, development, and investment. Reinstating the Big Business Head Tax will generate more than $20 million while limiting it to large companies who perform 50% or more of their work in Chicago at an historically low rate of only $4 per employee, allowing businesses to continue creating new jobs. Additionally, a strong Chicago Jet Fuel Tax will raise $98 million by making the big airlines pay for polluting the air in our neighborhoods.
Without raising property taxes, a Chicago Mansion Tax will raise $100 million by bumping up the transfer tax exclusively on high-value properties.
A Big Banks Securities and Speculation Tax would bring about a $1 or $2 tax per securities trading contract, amounting to less than 0.002% of a trade’s value while raising $100 million for Chicago.
Investing in our city to make it safer will revitalize our tourism industry, and strengthening the Chicago Hotel Accommodations Tax will let Chicago benefit even further from tourism, generating $30 million to further invest in an even safer city, which will further increase tourism rates.
And strengthening TIF as a bona fide economic development tool and regularizing the transfer of surpluses to the Corporate Fund will result in $100 million in excess funds.
Bring The Budget Into the 21st Century
Kicking the can down the road has left our budget back in the 20th century, as other big cities across the country have developed new ways to generate revenue. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will bring our budget into the 21st century with innovative and entrepreneurial approaches – without relying on disastrous privatization schemes like the sale of our parking meters.
These opportunities range from generating higher returns by better managing the assets the city owns, to using the city’s buying power to drive lower costs – and then marketing these advantages to businesses and other governments. That means exploring expanding our public workers health care plan to neighboring municipalities, and additional creative approaches other states and cities have adopted.
Chicago can also finally maximize advertising revenues from public assets and expand Social Impact Investing programs to attract more private sector investment in Chicagoans, lessening the burden on taxpayers.
Fit The Four-Year Timeline
Paul Vallas is presenting plans without a clear picture of how the budget will be balanced each year of his four-your term. That’s unacceptable.
The revenues and efficiencies in this plan add up to about $2 billion total to close Chicago’s current $1 billion structural deficit and add another $1 billion in new investments from the Better Chicago Agenda. This will allow Brandon Johnson as mayor to pay down Chicago’s debts from the past by $250 million a year, while also making $250 million of new, necessary investments each year.
With this approach, we can move forward a flexible, realistic, and responsible plan to dig out of mistakes of the past while investing in Chicago’s future.
Finally, Chicago will have a serious, transparent roadmap to accomplish our goals – not a series of ad-hoc, one-off budgetary tricks. This is the path to a better Chicago.