Mayor Richard M. Daley today urged the Illinois General Assembly to approve legislation in several critical areas – including education, capital funding, foreclosure and property tax relief and guns – before its scheduled adjournment May 31.
"These are issues that affect people's pocketbooks, well being and quality of life. They are Chicago challenges, but they're also challenges being faced by people every day across the state," Daley said in a City Hall news conference.
"Now, with two weeks left to go in the session, I want to report that while some progress has been made, much of our agenda hasn't yet been addressed," he said.
Starting early this year, Daley began to lay out the City of Chicago's agenda for this session of the legislature in Springfield. It addressed many of the challenges the City faces for which Springfield's support is needed to help residents who are struggling during these difficult economic times.
The Mayor identified the following issues that should be acted on before adjournment: Transportation:
He thanked the legislature for enacting a transportation capital bill which has placed millions of dollars of funding for street, highway and road improvements are in the pipeline and said the City is working with the Governor's office to ensure the CTA gets that money in a timely fashion.
And he encouraged the General Assembly to quickly complete ongoing discussions that will lead to a capital bill that would upgrade water systems and improve schools, parks and other neighborhood infrastructure.
Daley reiterated that Chicago schools need greater funding over last year's level in order to keep student progress going. Chicago Public Schools leaders have asked Springfield to provide at least $200 million new dollars for its schools this year.
The proposed state budget contained only $173 million in new funding for schools statewide, resulting in only $51.5 million for Chicago.
"Especially during tough times, our schools and our students need for our leaders in Springfield to step up and accept their responsibility to provide substantially greater funding for public education year by year," Daley said.
He reminded people that earlier this year, Chicago school leaders cut another $60 million in administrative costs without affecting the classroom.
"Unless Springfield provides additional funding, Chicago school leaders will be forced to consider raising property taxes to the cap or cut classroom spending, neither of which they should be forced to do," Daley said.
Property Tax Relief:
Daley said there is no clear sign the property tax relief he has fought for will happen and he urged the General Assembly to enact it.
"Without enacting property tax relief on your state income tax, which I proposed based on an idea of our Property Tax Advisory Council, many of our residents will have little relief from higher property taxes because the 7% cap will be eliminated," the Mayor said.
"If Springfield doesn't act and address the decrease in the homeowner exemption in the 7% legislation, property taxes are projected to increase by more than $700 for many homeowners," he said.
Even if the legislature enacts the circuit breaker program this year, Chicago property taxpayers will still need more relief next year because the City is now being re-assessed, he said.
During a time when people need all the support they can get from Springfield to avoid foreclosure, there's been little action, Daley said.
He encouraged the Governor to sign HB 688, which has passed both houses and which expedites City intervention on distressed condos. And he urged the General Assembly to establish a foreclosure prevention counseling fund to increase the number of certified counselors to help homeowners before they go into foreclosures.
Local Government Support:
Daley said he remains concerned that the legislature will lower the amount of funding that local governments across the state receive as part of the distribution of the state income tax.
"If the legislature cuts support, it only increases pressure on local governments to generate new revenue to address growing deficits, especially cities like Chicago that have already cut tens of millions in spending over the last few years," Daley said.
"I don't have to remind anyone that in Chicago we just proposed additional furlough days for our non-union personnel and are working with the unions on budget issues," he said.
"It's time for Springfield finally to step up to protect our children and our streets and enact the gun laws we've proposed," he said.
HB867, the City's bill to increase penalties for shooting students on or near schools grounds and on or near public transit, has passed both Houses and gone to the Governor for signature. He urged the Governor to sign it.
He also urged passage of HJR 51, a proposal to create an anti-gun trafficking task force.
"In Chicago, we're already taking responsibility in many of these areas. But, in some of these areas only Springfield can act. We need the state to do its job. Cities can't be expected to go it alone," Daley said.
"To the members of the legislature in Springfield I want to say that there is still time to act. I understand that times are tough, but by not acting, they're risking the future of our children, of people's homes and the safety of our streets," he said.