Solving the City’s budget problems is going to require heavy-lifting from the City Council and theMayor’s office. We can no longer sell off assets and spend down reserves to pass a budget. The only solution is to make services more efficient and cost-effective and make some painful decisions. The expense side of the budget must be addressed and no solution is realistic unless we address personnel. Nobody likes to talk about job cuts but the reality is that 80% of the budget is personnel. There is no solution without cutting some jobs. But before we do that, we must explore every line of the budget to find efficiencies and cut waste.
The 2011 budget deficit is $635 million dollars. This deficit is structural – this means that the only way to eliminate yearly deficits is to cut spending, increase taxes, tax rates and/or fees and fines. I believe we must address expenses before we turn to you for a single additional penny. If you add the unfunded pension obligation (roughly $500 million) the deficit soars to over $1 billion dollars. If we continue to ignore the budget and pensions, we are headed towards bankruptcy. A bankruptcy will have catastrophic impacts on your home value and every City service. The budget and pension crisis is at the top of my list of issues – so I can promise you that we all have to give a little and there are some painful choices that lay ahead. But if we are thoughtful and work together, we can transform government and ensure Chicago remains a globally competitive city.