Mayor Rahm Emanuel is accusing his pal, Gov. Bruce Rauner, of taking a “buzzsaw” to public safety, health and education programs and warning that funding for nearly 1,000 Chicago Police officers is hanging in the balance.
In a letter to Democratic legislative leaders, Emanuel is sounding the alarm about a doomsday budget that could force everything from police layoffs to CTA fare increases and service cuts.
That’s because Rauner wants to shrink Chicago’s already reduced share of the state income tax by $135 million and cut CTA funding by well over $100 million.
The financially strapped Chicago Public Schools would take an $80 million hit and suffer a $10 million reduction to an expanded Safe Passage program that kept kids safe after the mayor closed a record 50 public schools.
Mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has questioned the sincerity of Emanuel’s opposition to the Rauner cuts, noting that Emanuel and Rauner are “good friends” who talk regularly and share “expensive wines together.”
In the letter to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, Emanuel sought to put to rest any notion that he was secretly in cahoots with Rauner.
“Unfortunately, Gov. Rauner’s proposed budget takes a buzzsaw to critical public health programs, education funding and our police, fire and other first responders. At the same time, it spares the wealthiest Illinois residents from being a part of the solution,” Emanuel wrote.
“Chicago, as well as many other municipalities, depend on this funding for police and fire services. For Chicago alone, this means funding for almost 1,000 police officers, youth programs, youth jobs and other essential programs that keep our children safe. Cuts to mass transit also put local governments in a terrible bind . . . Reducing the [CTA’s] operating budget by $100 million will only put more strain on operations and could lead to higher costs for commuters — not only in fares, but wait times and convenience.”
Emanuel’s handpicked school board balanced its pre-election budget by counting on 14 months of property tax revenue in just 12 months.
The accounting sleight-of-hand leaves just 10 months of property tax revenue to balance this year’s budget, when the shortfall balloons to $1.14 billion, thanks to a state-mandated, $700 million payment to the teachers pension fund.
Emanuel has offered no solution to the school budget crisis. He has only appealed to Rauner to end the pension double-standard that forces Chicago taxpayers to pay twice: for retired city teachers and for the pensions of retired teachers outside the city.
Against that backdrop and the $9.5 billion teacher pension crisis, negotiations will soon commence in earnest on a new teachers contract.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who was forced to take a pass on the mayor’s race after being diagnosed with brain cancer, has promised to lead her members out on strike for the second time in three years if teachers don’t get a fair contract.
Garcia has gone so far as to predict another teachers strike if Emanuel is re-elected.
Emanuel and Rauner are longtime friends, education reform allies and former business associates who made millions together. Their families have vacationed together.
That opened the door for Garcia to claim without proof that Rauner lowered the boom on Chicago with a wink and a nod from Emanuel.
“He and Rauner are good friends. They apparently share expensive wines together. They talk on a very regular basis. I’m sure the mayor had advanced notice that these cuts were coming down. The mayor should have ensured that the governor wouldn’t have the audacity to even think about draconian cuts,” Garcia said last month.
“I don’t think he’s fighting for Chicago like he needs to be. . . . He’s gonna have a hard time explaining to people that he didn’t know these things were happening and he was unable to prevent the cuts. He needs to show he’s really for defending vulnerable populations that would be devastated. This is his friend. They go back a long time. He needs to leverage all the power that he has to ensure these cuts are mitigated.”