fees

Chicago’s Monthly Phone Tax To Rise 56 Percent?

New and higher fees, fines, and taxes. Less government services.

That’s what Chicagoans should expect going forward considering the city’s fiscal health and who’s running the show.

Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

After playing cat-and-mouse for days, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration came clean Thursday: Chicago wants to raise the monthly fee tacked on to hardline telephone and cell phone bills by 56 percent — to $3.90…

(Editor’s note: “After playing cat-and-mouse for days, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration came clean Thursday…” Beautifully worded; bold added for emphasis.)

Spielman continued:

Instead of simply asking the General Assembly to renew a $2.50-a-month surcharge due to expire July 1, cash-strapped Chicago is seizing the opportunity to get more money — by asking state lawmakers to raise the cap to “the highest monthly wireline surcharge imposed by any county or municipality” in Illinois.

The highest monthly telephone tax around the state is the $3.90 imposed in Putnam County. Under the bill Emanuel is hoping to push through in the waning days of the Legislature’s spring session, Chicago would be empowered to match that $3.90 — and go higher if any other city or town goes first.

The new and higher tax would apply to both cell phone bills and wireline phones, according to a summary sheet of the legislation distributed by City Hall. The bill would also empower the city raise the fee imposed on prepaid cell phones from the current “seven percent of the transaction amount” to nine percent…

According to Spielman, a 56 percent increase in the monthly phone tax would generate an additional $50.4 million for the City’s coffers.

John Byrne, Monique Garcia, and Ray Long added on the Chicago Tribune website Thursday:

Emanuel’s late push for a measure that would allow the City Council to raise 911 fees by as much as $1.40, which could bring the monthly charge on landline and cell phone bills to $3.90 a month, cleared its first hurdle in the Senate.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the increase was needed because the current $2.50 fee isn’t raising enough money to pay for operating the city’s emergency response center, forcing the Emanuel administration to dip into other pots of money to keep it running. How much more the fee hike would bring in depends on whether aldermen vote to increase the fee and to what level.

The city collected about $90 million last year through the current $2.50-per-month phone fee, Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said. This year’s budget for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications is $123 million. Quinn did not directly answer whether the mayor wants to raise the 911 fee to an amount that will bring in more revenue than the city needs to cover the OEMC budget or how the city would use any extra revenue

Let’s see. Assuming the City of Chicago collects the same amount ($90 million) as last year from their monthly phone tax, adding the projected $50.4 million from a 56 percent hike totals just over $140 million. That’s enough to pay for OEMC operations plus tax- although something tells me that’s probably not where all the money would be steered to.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Emanuel seeks 56 percent hike in telephone tax.” Chicago Sun-Times. 29 May 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/emanuel-seeks-56-percent-hike-telephone-tax/thu-05292014-434pm). 30 May 2014.

Byrne, John, Garcia, Monique and Long, Ray. “Emanuel makes late push to raise 911 fees paid by those own landlines, cell phones.” Chicago Tribune. 29 May 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-emanuel-makes-late-push-to-raise-911-fees-paid-by-those-own-landlines-cell-phones-20140529,0,6958184.story). 30 May 2014.

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Cook County Homeowners Could See Property Tax Hike To Pay For Pension ‘Reform’

Last week, I blogged about the possibility of property and/or sales taxes going up soon in Cook County, Illinois. Dave McKinney and Brian Slodysko reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website on May 13 the hikes might occur as part of a pension “reform” bill.

Hal Dardick and Monique Garcia added on the Chicago Tribune website tonight:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hit Springfield Thursday to try to build support for changes to the county pension plan that she says would halt its ongoing decline toward insolvency.

She met with Senate President John Cullerton House Speaker Michael Madigan, both Chicago Democrats, and also Republican legislative leaders. “I think she’s got a good chance to pass this bill,” Madigan said afterward…

Although Preckwinkle has not identified how she would pay for her plan, it calls for the county to put $144 million a year into the pension fund. If funded with property taxes, that would cost the average homeowner up to $65 more a year, starting in 2017, according to one internal county document the Tribune obtained.

Preckwinkle, however, said Wednesday that she has closed even larger budget gaps through cuts and other, smaller scale tax and fee increases without raising property taxes — while also lowering the county sales tax by a half-cent on the dollar…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Yet, McKinney and Slodysko wrote last week:

County officials do not believe they can cut enough from the budget to cover the cost, the source said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned. It’s only a matter of time before Chicago and Cook County politicians get around to raising property taxes on a regular basis, if you ask me.

What’s that line I keep repeating on this blog?

Higher fees, fines, and taxes. Less government services.

As much as I hate saying it, that’s what Chicago and Cook County residents should be preparing themselves for down the road.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Dardick, Hal and Garcia, Monique. “Preckwinkle hits Springfield on pension plan.” Chicago Tribune. 22 May 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-preckwinkle-hits-springfield-on-pension-plan-20140522,0,4698464.story). 22 May 2014.

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Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes No Comments

Chicago Wakes To Proposed Property Tax Hike On April Fool’s Day

Many Chicagoans probably wish what’s being widely-reported in the local news this morning about a proposed property tax hike is just a silly April Fool’s joke.

It’s not.

Fran Spielman wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

Chicago property owners will face $250 million in property tax increases over five years while city employees make increased pension contributions that will cost them at least $300 more a year, under landmark reforms unveiled Monday…

The new revenue the mayor had promised only after pension reform will come in the form of $50 million property tax increases for five straight years, beginning next year and continuing through 2019.

Top mayoral aides estimate that would cost the owner of a home valued at $250,000 with an annual property tax bill of $4,000 roughly $58 more or $290 over the five-year period. That’s on top of expected increases for the Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Park District…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A couple of thoughts here:

First off, is anyone really surprised this is happening?

Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be.

Higher fees, fines, and taxes. Less government services.

I’ve been squawking this for quite some time now.


“Black Dynamite- Who saw that coming?”
YouTube Video

Second, a $250,000 home? When discussing a Chicago Board of Education property tax hike last August, I blogged:

$230,000? You’d be hard-pressed to find a home for that little money in my former stomping grounds on the Northwest Side.

The same holds true for a $250,000 one (especially if it’s a property big enough for a family and doesn’t require a ton of work).

Which means many of my old neighbors will be coughing up significantly more than just $58 annually/$290 over five years as a result of this proposed hike.

And they already pay a big chunk of change to the City’s coffers.

Third, Spielman added last night:

The bottom line, according to Emanuel, is a plan that spreads the burden between employees, retirees and homeowners without raising property taxes so high that it triggers a mass exodus to the suburbs…

“Mass” being the key word here, because an exodus has already started. Former Chicago residents who have awakened to the “writing on the wall” are moving to the suburbs (yours truly included), leaving Cook County, and departing the state.

The push to make “temporary” personal and corporate income tax hikes permanent and the pursuit of class warfare in the form of a proposed millionaire tax hike by the ruling political party in the city, county, and state certainly don’t help the situation either.

Fourth, I can’t stand when tax hikes are proposed despite the lack of significant belt-tightening. Think the City of Chicago is as lean-and-mean as it possibly can be with its operations and set-up?

As long as 50 aldermanic wards exist, I’d argue no.

Fifth, as it stands right now, there’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with. Hal Dardick an Bill Ruthhart reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

But the proposal the mayor and his top aides outlined late Monday would not address huge pension shortfalls for Chicago police, firefighters and teachers. Nor would it deal with the city’s most immediate, pressing financial problem: a state requirement to pay a whopping $600 million more toward police and fire pensions next year, a provision that could lead to a combination of tax increases, service cuts and borrowing

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You read right. Possibly more “tax increases, service cuts and borrowing” coming down the line shortly for Chicago residents.

Stay tuned…

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “Pension deal pinches city workers and taxpayers.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 Mar. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/exclusive-pension-deal-pinches-city-workers-and-taxpayers/mon-03312014-821pm). 1 Apr. 2014.

Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel’s pension fix: Shrink benefits, raise taxes.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-rahm-emanuel-pension-property-tax-increase-met–20140401,0,1662095,full.story). 1 Apr. 2014.

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BIS: Global Debt Markets Grow To Estimated $100 Trillion In 2013, Up From $70 Trillion In 2007

Last night, I read about global debt markets hitting the $100 trillion-mark.

One word came to my mind at that moment:

Unsustainable.

Branimir Gruić and Andreas Schrimpf wrote “Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis” in the latest BIS Quarterly Review- a report from the Bank of International Settlements (the central bank of central banks). From the publication released Sunday:

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel)…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers”

Gruić and Schrimpf are correct- I’m not surprised.

And regular Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be either, as warnings about reduced government services and new/higher taxes and fees (to deal with all this new debt) have been issued time and time again.

You can read the entire BIS report here (page 22 of the .pdf file/page 18 of the publication contains Gruić and Schrimpf’s findings).

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago, The Writing Is On The Wall

The city of Chicago is in for some tough times down the road.

“The Machine” keeps putting a positive spin on the city’s deteriorating financial condition, but the numbers don’t lie. I’ve rattled them off time and time again, the most recent being Tuesday. The Chicago press (sans Fran Spielman over at the Chicago Sun-Times and a few others) has even caught on, publishing articles with more frequency these days that reveal just how ugly the city’s finances truly are. Case in point, a Chicago Tribune editorial entitled “Chicago is on the road to Detroit” that appeared on their website yesterday. From the piece:

By the most recent numbers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s government owes $13.9 billion in general obligation bond debt, plus $19.5 billion in unfunded pension obligations. Add in Chicago Public Schools and City Hall’s other “sister agencies” and you’re talking billions more in debts that Chicago taxpayers owe. Yet here we are on a Wednesday when the mayor probably will get approval from a derelict City Council to issue another up-to-$900 million in bonds backed by property taxes — and to double, to $1 billion, the amount of short-term bank money his administration can borrow to raise cash…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

By the way, Mayor Emanuel got that approval. Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website Wednesday morning:

Without a word of debate, the City Council on Wednesday blindly added $1.9 billion to Chicago’s mountain of debt even though aldermen have no idea how the money will be spent.

The vote was 43-to-4. “No” votes were cast by Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Brendan Reilly (42nd) and John Arena (45th)…

Now, I’ve heard/read some Chicagoans say something along the lines of don’t worry about the city’s finances, Governor Quinn and the State of Illinois or President Barack Obama and the federal government will ride to the rescue of their fellow Democrats in control of the “Windy City.”

To which I say, I’m not so sure. Is there anyone in America who doesn’t know how much of an economic basket case the “Land of Lincoln” is? A $100.5 billion public pension debt and the worst credit rating of all 50 U.S. states routinely make headlines across the country. As for the federal government, I keep encountering the words “insolvent” and “bankrupt” more and more these days to describe the nation’s finances. And don’t think for a second other economically-challenged cities across the country won’t cry foul to the Oval Office and their elected representatives if Chicago is bailed out. I find it hard to believe the State of Illinois or the Feds could come to Chicago’s rescue without there being serious financial and political repercussions.

Chicago, the writing is on the wall. By the looks of things, that great city where I was born and from which I recently just left is now past the proverbial point of no return, no longer looking capable of effectively navigating the growing financial crisis.

While I don’t foresee the city’s death, I do envision a continuation of its already gradual decline until a point of fiscal implosion is reached. Will it be Detroit-esque in its bottoming out? I don’t know. But it sure as hell won’t be pretty.

Faced with such a scenario, will Chicagoans choose to stay and contend with the almost certain prospect of much higher taxes and fees in conjunction with curtailed city services (public safety comes to mind here), or will they depart the “Second City” like I did?

One might think the latter (going), but I’m sure there will be plenty of the former (staying).

In the interests of surviving and prospering, which is the better choice?

I don’t think the answer is as clear-cut as many readers might think. And it’s something I’ll be exploring and blogging about more in the coming days.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Chicago is on the road to Detroit.” Chicago Tribune. 5 Feb. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-chicago-debt-edit-0205-20140205,0,3757189.story). 6 Feb. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “City Council OKs going $1.9 billion deeper into debt.” Chicago Sun-Times. 5 Feb. 2014. (http://www.suntimes.com/25398572-761/city-council-oks-going-19-billion-deeper-into-debt.html). 6 Feb. 2014.

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Chicago Borrows $1.9 Billion, Piling On More Debt ‘For The Children’

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2011 with $310 million in cash on hand, $167 million more than the year before, but added $465 million to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show…

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to just over $27 billion. That’s $10,000 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.7 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338-per-resident.”

-Chicago Sun-Times website, July 22, 2012

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2012 with $33.4 million in unallocated cash on hand — down from $167 million the year before — while adding to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show…

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to nearly $29 billion. That’s $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents.”

-Chicago Sun-Times website, July 26, 2013

Chicago keeps piling on massive amounts of debt. From Fran Spielman yesterday on the Chicago Sun-Times website:

Chicago will test the bond market for the first time since its bond rating dropped three notches, thanks to $1.9 billion in borrowings added Monday to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers.

The City Council’s Finance Committee authorized two massive borrowings: a $900 million general obligation bond issue to refinance old debt, pay for equipment and capital projects and bankroll $100 million for legal settlements incurred last year and a $1 billion borrowing for Midway Airport.

The Finance Committee also agreed to double — from $500 million to $1 billion — a so-called “commercial paper” program used to cover short-term borrowing between bond deals.

The general obligation bond issue includes $200 million in debt refinancing and $130 million in debt restructuring to “better align revenues with our obligations,” as [Chief Financial Officer Lois] Scott put it.

The so-called “scoop-and-toss” technique will stave off even higher taxes and fees, but it will saddle Chicagoans with another decade of debt that should be paid off today

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s worn-out line “it’s for the children” comes to mind here.

As well as that saying “you can pay now or pay later.”

Which is what Chicagoans will eventually be forced to do when the city’s “financial reckoning day” arrives.

The Chicago Tribune did a pretty good job illustrating just how serious the city’s debt crisis is becoming. Hal Dardick, Heather Gillers, and Jason Grotto reported on the Tribune website yesterday:

In a move that will add to the city’s mountain of debt, Mayor Rahm Emanuel won support Monday from the City Council’s Finance Committee to issue up to $900 million in bonds backed by property taxes.

It’s the largest request put forth during Emanuel’s tenure and comes at a time when Chicago already has about $7 billion in outstanding general obligation debt, more per capita than bankrupt Detroit or any of the 10 biggest U.S. cities except New York

Monday, aldermen asked few questions about the borrowing as the ordinance authorizing the debt sailed through the committee with virtually no debate.

“It raises questions of how much City Council members understand the financial condition of the city and what the plan going forward will be to meet the debt,” said Laurence Msall, president of the nonpartisan Civic Federation budget watchdog group…

The amount of borrowing sought by Emanuel suggests his administration continues to need huge loans to run the city

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I can’t begin to tell you how depressing it is watching “The Machine” steadily bring the “City of Broad Shoulders” down to its knees. But what does City Hall care? More than likely they’ll have moved on to comfortable retirements or “bigger and better things” by the time the city implodes as a result of “scooping and tossing.”

Ubi Est Mea? (Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper columnist Mike Royko’s suggested Chicago city motto of “Where’s Mine?”)

How about “Not On My Watch,” all things considered?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “City to borrow $1.9 billion in first test since rating downgrade.” Chicago Sun-Times. 3 Feb. 2014. (http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/25360629-418/city-to-borrow-19-billion-in-first-test-since-rating-downgrade.html). 4 Feb. 2014.

Dardick, Hal, Gillers, Heather, and Grotto, Jason. “Mayor seeks to borrow up to $900 million more.” Chicago Tribune. 3 Feb. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-02-03/news/ct-met-bonds-new-chicago-borrowing-20140204_1_tax-increases-city-leaders-finance-committee). 4 Feb. 2014.

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Chicago Residents Hit With Fee, Fine, And Tax Hikes In 2014

Chicagoans- get ready for a bunch of new fee, fine, and tax hikes starting January 1.

Fees for certain parking and speeding infractions, impounded vehicle storage, and construction permit filings are going up.

“Amusement” taxes on cable television will jump 50 percent.

Beginning January 10, yet another cigarette tax hike of 50 cents per pack takes effect. Adding federal, state, and county taxes will leave Chicago with the highest taxes ($7.17) on cigarettes in the country.

None of this applicable to you? There’s more. I read an article by Hal Dardick in my Sunday paper (Chicago Tribune) this morning which warned:

The widest-felt effects will stem from the property tax increase enacted in August by the Chicago Board of Education and higher water and sewer fees set in motion during Emanuel’s first year in office as a way to pay for the replacement of aging mains.

The owner of a home valued at $213,000 can expect to pay about $51 more in school property taxes next year. It’s the third year in a row that Chicago property owners will get hit with higher school taxes.

City property owners and suburban governments that buy city water face a 15 percent increase in water rates. In some cases, suburban utilities will pass the increases on to people who buy their water. Sewer charges, added to city property owners’ bimonthly bills, will be 96 percent of their water tab, an increase of 4 percentage points…

“The owner of a home valued at $213,000.”

Not many decent houses down around that price level in my old neighborhood on the Northwest Side. Even in adjacent neighborhoods.

$51 would be just the starting point in that part of Chicago.

Dardick added later:

All of the new city fines and fees are expected to pump about $32.4 million into city coffers next year…

“$32.4 million.” Yeah, we’ll see.

Why such a “Doubting Thomas”? If anything, smokers who aren’t already doing it might be even more motivated in the new year to purchase their cigarettes outside of the Chicago city limits, depriving the City of Chicago of much needed and anticipated revenue.

Then there’s the possibility that a significant number of Chicagoans might become extra-wary going forward about being slapped with the well-publicized and more expensive parking and moving violations. More anticipated money gone.

And down the road, there’s already talk among certain suburbs of bypassing Lake Michigan water collected and distributed by the City of Chicago.

Regardless, Chicago residents- should they choose to remain in the “Windy City”- should keep on expecting higher fees, fines, and taxes in the years to come.

Then again, the same might be said for a lot of places across the United States.

But to the degree that I expect Chicagoans to get hit with? Not really.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Higher Chicago taxes, fines and fees for 2014.” Chicago Tribune. 20 Dec. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-chicago-new-taxes-fees-met-20131222,0,6847986.story). 22 Dec. 2013.

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‘Mancow’ Moves Family Out Of ‘Unlivable’ Chicago

In the late 90s-early 2000s, I used to drive 30 miles each way to and from work during the business week (thankfully, gas was relatively cheap at that time). Therefore, I had plenty of time to kill during the commute. Back then, I used to tune into Mancow’s Morning Madhouse, a radio show hosted by Chicago-based “shock jock” Erich “Mancow” Muller once in a while. Mancow is going strong in 2013 with a presence on both the radio and television, and still manages to make headlines. Bob Goldsborough reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

Calling his decision to leave the city “heartbreaking,” radio host and reality TV star Erich “Mancow” Muller has sold his Lincoln Park condominium and decamped to a house in Wilmette.

Muller, who is a married father of twin school-aged daughters, told Elite Street he’d had enough with city living.

“The schools are awful. I guess I could have had (my daughters) go to public schools, but I don’t want them to be stupid. I drove past Lincoln Park High School every day, and the kids are cursing and yelling and have their hands down each other’s pants,” he said. “And then, I was spending $45,000 a year for the (private) British School of Chicago. It was killing me.”

Mancow also said there were always homeless people outside his door and street parking he often used was raised from a quarter an hour to $13 an hour.

“I think they’ve done a good job of making the city unlivable for families. I’m so sick of feeding the broken government in Chicago,” he said.

“The schools are awful.” “I’m so sick of feeding the broken government in Chicago.”

Leave it to a shock jock to “candy-coat” his displeasure with the Chicago Public Schools and the Democratically-controlled City of Chicago.

Maybe I should start listening to Mancow on the radio again?

In all seriousness, it sucks that the Muller family feels things have gotten to the point in Chicago where they need to leave.

I wonder how many other Chicagoans feel the same way?

While some may think Mancow’s gripes are just “signs of the time” or consequences of “city living,” regular readers know my girlfriend and I just split Chicago recently after concluding we weren’t comfortable either with the direction the Midwest metropolis seems to be heading. Our “beef” has more to do with financial mismanagement and public safety- or lack thereof- however.

Unfortunately, barring a major financial crisis, “The Machine” and “business as usual” looks to be firmly established in Chicago for now.

From where I stand, however, it certainly looks like storms clouds are gathering on the horizon.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Goldsborough, Bob. “Calling city ‘unlivable,’ Mancow sells Lincoln Park condo.” Chicago Tribune. 18 Nov. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-mancow-leaves-city-elite-street,0,3188814.story). 18 Nov. 2013.g/chi-mancow-leaves-city-elite-street,0,3188814.story). 18 Nov. 2013.

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Another Great Editorial Cartoon About Chicago

Scott Stantis is a Chicago-based cartoonist whose editorial cartoons grace the pages of the Chicago Tribune five times a week.

If his name sounds familiar it’s because I blogged about a cartoon of his last week that depicted a young lemonade stand operator in Chicago frantically calling the state of Indiana for help as menacing figures named “Taxes,” “Unions,” “Regulations,” and “Fees” loomed over him in Illinois, demanding a piece of the “action.”

Opening my Sunday Tribune again yesterday morning (I’m a little behind on blog-related reading these days), I noticed another cartoon by Stantis which also manages to hit very close to home with what I’ve been blogging about on a regular basis these days.

So much so it’s one of the reasons I now live where I do (with “it” meaning crime and the growing prospect of more criminal activity as local and state government finances erode going forward).

Outside of Chicago.

Like Stantis said:

Would the last one to leave please shoot out the lights?

As it’s not posted on the Association of American Editorial Cartoonist website as of this morning, you can check out the cartoon on a Chicago Tribune gallery here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Thoughts On Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Proposed 2014 Budget

Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his proposed 2014 budget. From a press release posted on the City of Chicago website:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today presented the proposed 2014 budget to the City Council, an $8.7 billion budget that, for the third consecutive year, balances the City’s finances without introducing new property, sales or gasoline taxes.

In 2011, the City faced a projected deficit of $790 million for 2014. In the last two budgets, that structural deficit has been cut by more than half, to $339 million…

The City began the 2014 budget process with a projected deficit of $338.7 million. The gap was closed through spending reforms and cuts, and improved revenue growth, including: $40 million through reduced technology, equipment and telecom costs; $26 million in healthcare savings; $101 million in additional revenue growth and children’s safety zones; $35 million from sweeping aging revenue accounts and grant funds; $34 million in targeted revenue enhancements; $18.7 million through proper allocation of costs to enterprise and grant funds; and $53.4 million from 2013 surplus captured through spending controls.

Last year around this time I offered up my thoughts about the proposed City budget for 2013. Using that as a backdrop:

• Mayor Emanuel proposed an $8.3 billion budget last year. For 2014, it’s risen to $8.7 billion.
• A big deal was made over no “new taxes, fines or fees” in the 2013 budget. The same can’t be said for 2014, where no “new property, sales or gasoline taxes” is the best Emanuel can do. $34.2 million in tax, fee, and fine increases are included in the proposed budget according to the Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick.
• To help plug a projected $369 million deficit last year, the City “identified” $45 million in additional revenue. I noted that was just projected tax revenue on real property transfer, hotel, sales, and electricity taxes until the end of September 2013 (I wonder how much of that projected revenue was actually realized?). For 2014, “the gap was closed” with $101 million in (projected) additional revenue. Time will tell if this is really accomplished.

Even if the projected deficit of $338.7 million can be eradicated, Chicago is still in big financial trouble. I blogged backed on August 7:

The “Windy City” faces a number of financial hurdles in the coming years…

• Growing projected deficits of $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016, according to the city’s annual financial analysis released last Wednesday (blogged about here)
• A total long-term debt of nearly $29 billion, or $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents (blogged about here)
• A pension crisis with the Chicago Public Schools, which Davey and Williams Walsh note draws from the same tax base and where an extra $338 million must be found in 2014.

You can read the entire City of Chicago press release about Mayor Emanuel’s proposed budget for 2014 on the city’s website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Emanuel uses ‘boatload of ways’ to balance budget.” Chicago Tribune. 22 Oct. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-rahm-emanuel-budget-1023-20131023,0,744928.story). 24 Oct. 2013.

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Farewell, Illinois Businesses And Jobs

One topic I particularly “harp on” in Survival And Prosperity is the continued erosion of business-friendly conditions in the state of Illinois.

Whether it be a misguided anti-Constitution, anti-Bill of Rights crusade that drives off gun manufacturers and their workers or a 46 percent corporate income tax hike that was implemented at the beginning of 2011, parochial-minded politicians in control of the state are scaring away prospective and existing businesses and jobs.

Thankfully, it’s not just me that recognizes the nonsense that’s going on. From my Sunday paper this morning:

Scott Stantis
Chicago Tribune
Oct 19, 2013
ANY CHARACTER HERE

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Back To Blogging

It’s back to work over here at Survival And Prosperity this dreary Wednesday morning in the Chicagoland area. I had planned on publishing new material Monday, but decided to extend my “vacation” out a little bit longer. I apologize if you were checking for new posts earlier this week.

During my time away from the blog, I was able to attend to a number of tasks that needed my immediate attention. But it wasn’t “all work and no play.” I got the chance to spend a couple of days at my family’s place in southeast Wisconsin near the end of the break. The weather was terrific, the locally-brewed beer plentiful, and the Northern Pike and Largemouth Bass were biting. My cousin and I managed to haul in some really nice-sized fish. Which is why I extended my stay longer than originally planned.

Two things come to mind now when thinking about that long weekend in Wisconsin:

First, I noticed the gun section at the local hardware store had a lot more ammunition on the shelves from the last time I was there. Another sign the ammo shortage is easing up?

Second, it was nice to “Escape to Wisconsin” and breathe in some “freedom.” In my opinion, Wisconsin is heading in the right direction. Illinois… not so much. As each day goes by, the “Land of Lincoln” continues to be transformed into a Big Government Nanny State, highlighted by more/higher taxes, more/higher fees, and increasing controls forced upon the populace. Sadly enough, many of my neighbors seem to be okay with this. Especially here in the Chicago area.

Coupled with the huge financial woes facing the City of Chicago, Cook County, and State of Illinois- an ugly ending looks to be in store for us. At the very least, Illinoisans will be busting their wallets out en masse to deal with the debt debacle.

And while our nice new house in the Chicago suburbs that I worked on quite a bit the last two weeks is fine and all, I continue to warn my girlfriend that our future permanent residence looks to be outside of the state.

It’s a real shame it might have to come to that.

Back to our regularly-scheduled blogging. And wondering if incompetency trumps political theater in causing a national debt default in the coming hours.

Christopher E. Hill
Editor

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Chicagoans: Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

These days, there are times living out here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that I feel like Henry Hill (played by actor Ray Liotta) at the end of the 1990 film Goodfellas.

No, not that part about Henry living the rest of his life as a “schnook.”

Rather, where previously I could step out my door adjacent to a major city artery and things were generally hopping, this suburban subdivision I now live in can be pretty dull at times (which isn’t entirely a bad thing).

Thank god the Italian food around here isn’t nearly as bad as what the other Hill encountered.

Grazie a Dio.

However, I was just reminded this morning of one of the big reasons why my girlfriend and I moved out of the city of Chicago while reading the popular Chicago police blog Second City Cop. “016 Up For Grabs” discussed 5 people getting shot in less than 2 days in the Chicago Police Department’s 16th District, something that kind of hit home considering I used to live in that same district.

Now, it’s not like crime never happened in 016 before. It’s the big city, and the 80 percent of good, law-abiding people are packed shoulder-to-shoulder with the 10 percent of human refuse and remaining 10 percent who play by the rules because they’re forced to. I can recall walking into a convenience store down the street from me just minutes after it had been robbed, having a “welcome to the new home” plant stolen from my building’s entryway shortly after it had been delivered, and finding a big metal Coleman cooler stolen from my underground parking garage space- all within weeks after moving in to my old Northwest Side neighborhood, one of the “nicer” ones in the city.

Funny thing about that cooler. It used to store bottles of antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, engine oil, and more- none of which was taken even though it was inside the cooler. But plenty of which splashed around and/or leaked in that container.

Something tells me those bastards got pretty ill later drinking from those beer bottles/cans because they were too lazy to clean out that cooler before using it.

Karma’s a bitch. Or here’s hoping, right?

Still, armed with “intel” from Second City Cop and other alternative media with a local focus (Chicago mainstream media was hit-or-miss on reporting criminal activity in my neighborhood), Chicago-related research/blog material, and my own local observations, I realized that the 16th District had not only become “grittier” as it concerned crime, but it was occurring at a time when police protection in my area was significantly-reduced from when I first moved in.

Coupled with the City of Chicago’s financial woes that are finally coming home to roost? Chicagoans don’t need to be brain surgeons to figure this one out. Like I’ve been saying for some time now, more fees/fines/taxes and less government services seem to be on the horizon.

I suspect less police protection will be part of that equation, unless Chicago taxpayers pony up more of their hard-earned cash to at least keep the “thin blue line” intact.

And boy is it thin these days.

But I suspect increased revenues will be directed at Chicago’s public employee pension crisis and City Hall’s pet projects (where’s my park, dang it) before it’s steered over to the CPD and public safety.

In other words, Chicagoans had better be prepared to keep hearing “crime is down” for a long time.

In the meantime, City Hall still can’t comprehend that losing Downtown to all the wilding will see the City’s bottom line hit hard as word gets out.

Judging by recent MSM coverage nationwide about such criminal activity here, the word’s already out.

I wonder how hard it is to fudge tourism numbers?

While I would have preferred to have stayed in Chicago, and in particular, our old or the adjacent neighborhood in the CPD’s 16th District, considering what I see is in store for the area and our particular circumstances, my girlfriend and I made the right decision to move when and where we did.

Then again, that might not be the “correct” decision for other Chicagoans. Consider this. We didn’t have much invested in our old location. We didn’t own it (could have, but we steered clear of buying anything until home prices came back down to earth somewhat), we weren’t required to live within the city limits as required by a municipal job, we don’t have kids in the local schools, family and friends didn’t live down the street, the list goes on. So it wasn’t all too painful for us to just pick up and leave when our latest lease ran out.

The same can’t be said for others, and I respect that.

At least I, for one, have given you enough notice of what to expect down the road.

Prepare accordingly.

Is the “Second City” going to get worse? Could get “Third World” when all is said and done, and the ongoing financial storm finally blows completely through.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

SCC. “016 Up For Grabs.” Second City Cop. 13 Aug. 2013. (http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com/2013/08/016-up-for-grabs.html). 13 Aug. 2013.

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Chicago Faces $339 Million Budget Deficit In 2014, $1 BILLION Gap In 2015

Last year on this day, I wrote the following about the City of Chicago’s just-released annual financial analysis:

The City of Chicago just released its annual financial analysis. Of no surprise to a number of Chicagoans, the city’s financial health is worrisome. According to an article by City Hall reporter Fran Spielman on the Chicago Sun-Times website last night:

• Chicago is looking at a budget shortfall of $369 million in 2013. Granted, this is better than the $741 million deficit forecast last year, and the Chicago news media is crediting Mayor Rahm Emanuel for this significant reduction…

By early October 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had presented an $8.3 billion budget for 2013 to the Chicago City Council that aimed to balance the City’s finances without introducing new fees, fines, or taxes.

The latest financial analysis is out, and the budget gap in 2014 is projected to be $339 million. Still crappy, but a lot better than what could be in store for the “Windy City” by 2015. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

The day of financial reckoning for Chicago is not far off, with the city budget shortfall expected to near a record $1 billion in 2015 if major changes are not made to the government worker pension systems, city officials said Wednesday.

That stark assessment, contained in the annual financial analysis prepared by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top budget officials, overshadowed the fact that the city needs to close an expected $339 million budget gap predicted for next year.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

So are Chicagoans going to get slammed with higher fees, fines, and taxes in the coming months? Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not raise sales or property taxes to close a $338.7 million gap in next year’s budget but all bets are off in 2015, when the shortfall balloons to $1 billion without pension reform, a top mayoral aide said Wednesday.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Spielman noted that 2016 looks to be painful for the City as well. She added:

The deficit will rise to $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016 without a painful mix of employee concessions and new revenues, according to the city’s annual financial analysis released Wednesday.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

What was that Dardick wrote in his article’s introduction?

“The day of financial reckoning for Chicago is not far off…”

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Dardick, Hal. “Absent pension reform, city faces $1 billion hole.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Aug. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-emanuel-budget-hole-0801-20130801,0,468987.story). 1 Aug. 2013.

Spielman, Fran. “City deficit to hit nearly $1 billion soon without pension reform.” Chicago Sun-Times. 31 July 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/news/21642911-418/city-deficit-to-hit-nearly-1-billion-soon-without-pension-reform.html). 1 Aug. 2013.

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City Of Chicago 2012 Audit Shows Debt Continues To Grow

I’ve been wondering when information regarding the latest City of Chicago audit would be released.

And wouldn’t you know it, it happened on a Friday evening.

That bad, huh?

Not really. Just continuing a worsening trend when it comes to the City’s long-term debt.

Thankfully, Chicago Sun-Times City Hall Reporter Fran Spielman picked up on the audit’s release and broke it down for readers when, as far as I can tell, no other Chicago mainstream media outlet is discussing it. Spielman wrote Friday night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2012 with $33.4 million in unallocated cash on hand — down from $167 million the year before — while adding to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers, year-end audits show.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Spielman was all over the 2011 audit release too, and reported back on July 22, 2012:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed the books on 2011 with $310 million in cash on hand, $167 million more than the year before.

$310 million cash cushion in 2011 (or is $167 million?- will try to clarify with Ms. Spielman) down to $33.4 million in 2012. Not the best news.

(Editor’s note: Ms. Spielman confirmed with me that the cash cushion in 2011 turned out to be that $167 million figure. So, $167 million all the way down to $33.4 million= still not good).

Regarding the “mountain of debt,” the Sun-Times reporter wrote last year that the City amassed an additional $465 million in debt according to the 2011 audit, bringing the City of Chicago’s total long-term debt to just over $27 billion, or $10,000 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.7 million residents.

In Friday night’s piece, Spielman pointed out:

The new round of borrowing brings Chicago’s total long-term debt to nearly $29 billion. That’s $10,780 for every one of the city’s nearly 2.69 million residents. More than a decade ago, the debt load was $9.6 billion or $3,338 per resident.

Around $2 billion more in additional long-term debt- or $780 more per Chicagoan- in just one year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Hall have found themselves in a difficult situation once more, one that I’ve been warning about for some time now. Spielman added:

By July 31, Emanuel must release a preliminary city budget. It’s almost certain to include another massive deficit — strengthening the city’s case in contract talks with city unions — that will have to be closed with more layoffs, service cuts and new revenues.

What’s that I’ve been saying? Expect new/higher taxes and fees, and less government services, as the financial crisis marches on.

Hat tip to Second City Cop for picking up on the Sun-Times article, and a nice job by Fran Spielman for staying on top of these revealing audits.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Spielman, Fran. “2011 audit shows Chicago has more cash and growing debt load.” Chicago Sun-Times. 22 July 2012. (http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/13895641-418/2011-audit-shows-chicago-has-more-cash-and-growing-debt-load.html). 29 July 2013.

Spielman, Fran. “City of Chicago’s cash cushion plummets, debt triples, arrests drop, water use rises.” Chicago Sun-Times. 26 July 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/21552920-761/city-by-the-numbers-cash-cushion-plummets-debt-triples-arrests-drop-water-use-rises.html). 29 July 2013.

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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