Mayor Nice Guy gives us a break | Bleader

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mayor Nice Guy gives us a break

Posted By on 07.29.08 at 04:24 PM

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In the last few days Mayor Daley has been spreading the word that even though the city faces mountains of debt, there's absolutely no way he will raise property taxes.

Last week he and schools CEO Arne Duncan announced that the Board of Education would rather take $50 million out of reserves than hike taxes for the cash-starved system.

And today he proclaimed that he would mandate furlough days for nonunion city employees to help close a budget deficit he says stands at "a couple of hundred million dollars." But no new property taxes.

This is a surprising turn of events for the mayor, who hasn't been reluctant to hike taxes in the past. For instance, to help close last year's $293 million deficit, Mayor Daley raised roughly $276 million in fees, fines, and taxes, including $83.4 million in property taxes. And this was on top of his $113 million increase in what I call the TIF tax (which the mayor doesn't acknowledge because he's apparently convinced himself that TIFs aren't taxes even though we have to pay them).

So what gives this year?

Well, there are two theories bouncing around City Hall. The nice guy theory is that Mayor Daley truly cares about the little people of his town and he realizes that in these hard economic times they can't afford another tax hike.

"Chicago taxpayers have been generous and supported our school improvements, and they deserve a break," the mayor told reporters at a July 23 press conference where he announced no new property taxes for the schools.

Arne Duncan was even more direct. "People are hurting," he said at the same press conference. "They're having a hard time making ends meet. And we refuse to add to that burden....We will not raise taxes. It would have been the wrong thing to do at this time."

Then there's the more, shall we say, realistic point of view that goes like this. With just six months left before the city submits its official bid for the 2016 Olympics to the International Olympic Committee, the last thing Mayor Daley wants or needs is to risk igniting anything remotely resembling a property tax revolt. Not when he's trying to show the world that everyone in Chicago just can't wait to host the games. There will of course be plenty of chances to jack up taxes next year, when he won't have to impress the IOC.

So which theory do you buy: Mayor Daley truly cares about you, or he wants you to remain asleep? 

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