Mayor Rahm Emanuel is using his massive campaign war chest to hammer mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia once again over Garcia’s decision to dodge the question of new revenues needed to solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis until after the April 7 runoff.
The new, 30-second television commercial is appropriately titled “Committee.”
That’s because Garcia has punted the question of new revenues needed to solve the city’s pension crisis and the $10 billion in unfunded liabilities at the Chicago Public Schools to a post-election committee of experts who would report back in 90 days, if he wins the runoff.
That means the recommendations would be delivered to Garcia after the Illinois General Assembly has already adjourned its spring session. In other words, too late for a vote on a Chicago casino or other new revenues that need legislative authorization.
Emanuel’s latest commercial uses Garcia’s own words against him from the news conference Garcia held to unveil his broad-strokes financial plan.
“For months, Chuy Garcia has stumbled when asked how he would pay for his many promises,” an announcer is quoted as saying, apparently referring to Garcia’s pledge to hire 1,000 additional police officers at an annual cost of $120 million and eliminate red-light cameras, costing the city $70 million in annual revenues.
“Higher property taxes? A city income tax? What’s his plan? Finally, he offered the media this answer.”
That’s followed by a clip of Garcia talking to reporters about his financial plan on March 13.
“On April 8, I will appoint a committee of experts to help us look at all of the revenue options,” Garcia is quoted as saying.
The announcer then closes by ridiculing Garcia, “April 8? The day after the election? The Tribune says Garcia clearly has trouble making decisions and delivering bad news. With tough choices ahead, can Chicago afford Chuy Garcia?”
Last week, Garcia said he has offered a broad-strokes plan, with no specific revenue solutions to solve Chicago’s $20 billion pension crisis, in part, because he has “good reason to think the books are cooked” by the Emanuel administration.
He said he won’t even talk about asking more of taxpayers until he orders “performance audits” of every city department starting with the largest: the Chicago Police Department.
“We owe it to taxpayers to arrive at a solid baseline of what the revenues are, where they’re going, where they shouldn’t be going before we talk about increasing new revenues and taxes,” Garcia said in a conversation with Better Government Association CEO Andy Shaw, broadcast live on CAN-TV last week.
“Regardless of what that’s gonna be, we need a solid baseline. If we’ve learned anything over the past four years from this administration, it’s that there’s good reason to think that the books are cooked. I will not use that as a baseline.”
Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry countered, “This campaign is a choice between two visions for Chicago. But right now, only Rahm is putting forward a plan for voters to evaluate. Chuy Garcia’s secret commission is hiding his plans until after the election. So voters have no idea how he’ll pay for his expensive promises.”
Emanuel’s campaign strategy is to portray Garcia as a lightweight legislator — a man inexperienced, indecisive and incapable of leading a city on the financial brink.
But what he fails to mention is that his own plan to solve the pension crisis and avert a post-election property tax increase is heavily reliant on the Illinois General Assembly.
The mayor wants an elusive, publicly owned Chicago casino with all of the revenue used to shore up city and school pensions. He wants to resurrect his 2011 proposal to broaden the sales tax to an array of services not now covered.
And he wants the legislature to lift the hammer hanging over the city’s head — a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire pensions due in December — and give taxpayers more time to “ramp up” to that balloon payment and similar relief from payments to the teachers pension fund.
If none of that happens — or only some of it — Emanuel will have no choice but to do what one of his most powerful City Council supporters has called inevitable, no matter who wins the April 7 runoff: raise property taxes.
A prolific fundraiser, Emanuel has raised roughly $20 million for his re-election campaign, much of it from wealthy donors he shares with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Garcia has raised roughly $3.2 million and traveled to California last week, and New York and Washington this week in search of more money.