Chicago Inspector general Joe Ferguson has made $3 billion in cost-saving suggestions to help the city get out of financial turmoil. Ferguson's second Budget Options Report (PDF) lays out 44 ways to cut spending as well as 19 ways to generate revenue. The options include everything from Lake Shore Drive toll booths to imposing one percent commuter and income taxes.
“In last year’s report, we provided data and analysis explaining that Chicago’s budget was fundamentally broken,” said Ferguson in a press release. “One year later, the situation remains difficult. The new Administration has candidly acknowledged the fiscal mess it inherited and has publicly committed itself to fixing it. This report is meant to support efforts to balance the budget by arming the public and City officials with context, basic data, and analysis needed to inform the tough choices ahead.”
Some of the other suggested budget options include:
- broadening the sales tax to include additional services (raising $450 million)
- raising water and sewer rates (raising $380 million)
- charging a $5 fee to get in the Central Business District during rush hour (raising $375 million)
- eliminating free sewer service for seniors (saving $17 million)
- making churches and schools pay for water (saving $15.2 million)
The report also makes controversial suggestions to reduce the required minimum number of firefighters needed to man an apparatus and getting rid of the police marine and helicopter units.
UPDATE (9/28): Mayor Rahm Emanuel has released the following statement in response to Ferguson's recommendations:
Across Chicago, residents, Aldermen and now the Inspector General have proposed ideas to tackle the difficult fiscal challenges ahead. Anything that will protect taxpayers and maintain the quality of services the City provides should be considered.
As I have said from the beginning, raising property taxes, income taxes or sales taxes is off the table. And asking drivers on Lake Shore Drive to pay a toll is also a non-starter.
There are a number of reforms and efficiencies in the Inspector General’s report that are promising, some of which we have already implemented and some we will give serious consideration.