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Next year’s budget prioritizes structural changes and investments our communities need

It’s a budget developed through a transparent and inclusive process that incorporated input from communities and stakeholders across all of Chicago.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

On Tuesday, the City Council will vote on the proposed 2020 budget, which will close a record $838 million gap through structural solutions, new revenues, savings and efficiencies. This budget will protect the services our residents expect and will strengthen investments in communities most in need.

And we’ll do it all without a large property tax increase.

As I have said, budgets are more than just math problems — they are expressions of our shared, progressive values.

The 2020 budget not only closes our historic gap responsibly, it does so without placing additional burdens on struggling working families. It’s a budget developed through a transparent and inclusive process that incorporated input from communities and stakeholders across all of Chicago.

We looked inward first, not to taxpayers, and found $538 million in strategic government reductions and efficiencies, along with an additional $352 million in carefully chosen revenues.

The result? We closed more than 60 percent of the budget gap by creating structural solutions — not one-time fixes. Solutions like departmental consolidations, a $20 million reduction in personnel vacancies, $25 million in improved revenue collection and a surcharge on downtown ride-hail corporations’ services — generating at least $40 million to mitigate congestion plaguing our downtown area and provide discounted options for those in the neighborhoods.

The budget also includes a $133 million increased reimbursement from the federal government through the state for emergency medical transportation services. We have every expectation the increased revenues will start to flow early next year.

Through these disciplined measures, we have also increased needed investments in our residents and communities, particularly in the key areas of affordable housing, mental health, homelessness and violence prevention, by almost $30 million.

These issues are interconnected, so by investing in them together we are not only strengthening them independently, we are making investments to improve an entire safety net for our most vulnerable populations. Good social policy is good economic policy.

There is more to do, and we continue to need help from Springfield for 2021 and beyond. So we’ll continue to focus on areas of need. But given the constraints presented by the largest budget gap in the City’s history, we’ve made a fiscally responsible commitment to the priorities that set the table for the work ahead.

As important as the structural solutions in our budget are, our long-term fiscal strategy must be premised on a broad economic vision that deals all of our residents in and grows our population. That means building neighborhood businesses and supporting homeowners and community-based organizations in every corner of our great city so that all of our people, including residents and businesses outside of our downtown, have ample reasons to stay, invest and grow right here at home. Our future must be guided by an inclusive growth strategy that propels all of our communities into economic health.

Tuesday’s vote represents a down payment on that historic mission, and a major step in the long journey we will be taking as one city together.

I look forward to working with all residents on building a future that is brighter than our past, where opportunity is shared, and all our residents are able to live up to their full potential.