Major Chicago Property Tax Hike Could Cost Aldermen Political Capital

Sep 23, 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to increase property taxes by $600 million could cost aldermen political capital.

Credit Mayor.cityofchicago.org

Chicago aldermen were asked to decide if their constituents can handle living in a more expensive city.

Emanuel says the city owes so much to its retiring police and firefighters that he has to raise property taxes. He says a vote for his budget will put aldermen in the history books for pulling Chicago from the financial brink

“It’s great rhetoric for him,” Alderman John Arena said. “But I guarantee you if I were to vote for this in four years decide to run for mayor, then there would be mailers just like he threw at his challenger this time.

And that’s the writing of history that politicians have long feared about hiking property taxes - that voters will only remember the dent in their wallets, not what that revenue is used for.

But Alderman Walter Burnett says if anyone has better ideas, they should suggest them.

“Because we have to do something. We’re not gonna get out of this unscathed.”

Some aldermen, like Roderick Sawyer, support it. Sawyer says he was actually hoping the city would RAISE taxes incrementally years ago. But others have to think on it more.

Alderman Brendan Reilly says he believes that those who can afford to pay more, should. But many of his constituents downtown say they’re really worried about shouldering most of that burden.

“I think the question is, at what point do we hit a tipping point for the city of Chicago’s economy,” Reilly said. “I don’t know that answer. I’m gonna be spending a lot of time these next few weeks listening; that’s a big part of my job.

The mayor needs to get 26 city council members on board to pass the hike.