How I voted on the Water Tax

In order to shore up an important and constitutionally mandated pension fund, I made a tough vote in the Finance Committee of the City Council to approve a small (initially approximately 15 cents/day) increase in the water bills of Chicago residents.  Some senior citizens with lower incomes will be exempted. While I voted to allow the proposal to move forward to the floor of the City Council, I placed several important conditions upon my further support because I voted "No" on the Mayor's recent property tax increase.

First, at my insistence, language was added to the ordinance to guarantee that every new dollar collected from this increase will be specifically dedicated to the Chicago Municipal Retirement Fund.  With this I want to assure taxpayers, who often suspect a shell game when it comes to funding that is supposed to be dedicated, that the money goes where it is supposed to go.

Second, I asked for a comprehensive analysis comparing the level of Chicago’s taxes and fees, including water bills and property taxes, with those of other major cities.  If this analysis is not completed to my satisfaction, I will be a “No” vote tomorrow when the full City Council meets.

As you may know, I voted “No” on the Mayor’s recent property tax increase.

Alternatively, I proposed several revenue ideas consistent to restoring economic and social justice to keep our streets safe, educate our children well and make city services the best they can be.  These proposals include a tiny transaction tax on every financial transaction that occurs at the financial exchanges on LaSalle Street, and a new property tax surcharge on every commercial building in our city with an assessment of more than $500 million, among others. Going forward, the City of Chicago simply cannot continue to reach further into the pockets of working Chicagoans to finance decades of economic irresponsibility and mistakes.

More than thirty-four thousand retired Chicago employees who worked hard for the taxpayers of Chicago were promised a pension, and they deserve to receive that pension as promised. These include city employees across the board, including Teacher Assistants who have helped educate our children for generations.  In addition to rulings from judges at all levels that the city must fund these pensions, our city’s financial health as measured by the major bonding agencies also require us to do so.