Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Proposes $712 Million In Tax And Fee Hikes

Chicago’s long-dreaded “financial reckoning day” officially arrived on Tuesday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled his $7.8 billion budget for 2016 before the Chicago City Council, which was higher than originally expected concerning the property tax hike and overall spending plan. Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website Tuesday morning:

To confront the pension crisis and eliminate the structural deficit he inherited, Emanuel’s $712 million package of tax and fee hikes includes: a four-year $588 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions and school construction; a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee; $13 million in higher fees for building permits; a $1 million tax on e-cigarettes and $48 million in fees and surcharges on taxicabs and ride-sharing services that have siphoned business away from them.

The phased-in property tax increase would be the largest in Chicago history…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Oh, but there’s more. Spielman added:

The mayor also warned that he’s not done raising property taxes. He reaffirmed his support for a $170 million property tax increase for teacher pensions provided teachers accept the equivalent of a 7 percent pay cut and the state agrees to pick up “normal” pension costs…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Personally, I think there’s a really good possibility new and higher fees, fines, and taxes are still on their way as the city’s financial health continues to deteriorate.

After all, based on historic economic cycles, a recession probably isn’t that far off.

I’ve blogged about the arrival of Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” for a couple of years now.

I’m sure more than a few Chicagoans thought I was a loon for doing so.

Personally I don’t give a crap about that. My goal in issuing those warnings was to wake my now-former neighbors up to the tough financial times that could be headed their way.

It is my hope those alerts didn’t fall entirely on deaf ears.

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


Spielman, Fran. “Rahm pitches tax hike: ‘Now is the time. This is the Council.’” Chicago Sun-Times. 22 Sep. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/979752/mayor-emanuel-makes-budget-pitch-city-council). 22 Sep. 2015.

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Analysts: Massive Chicago Property Tax Hike Just The Beginning

“And if Chicagoans think this major tax increase is some sort of one-off, well, I know of a certain bridge for sale out east.”

Survival And Prosperity, September 3, 2015

Chicago readers of this blog have been warned the last couple of years that the City of Chicago’s poor financial health means a sustained hunt for much more revenue (new and higher fees/fines/taxes) for the foreseeable future.

And Tuesday, this grim-yet-likely scenario was the focus of a City Club of Chicago luncheon.

Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon:

A $500 million property tax increase will not be enough to solve Chicago’s $30 billion pension crisis or rid the city of the junk bond rating that has saddled the taxpayers with tens of millions in penalties and borrowing costs, analysts concluded Tuesday.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall and Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics, offered the grim assessment during a lively panel discussion on city finances before a packed house at a City Club of Chicago luncheon…

Fabian’s conclusion was that, as tough as it will be for homeowners and their aldermen to swallow a $500 million property tax increase, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council need to bite the bullet even harder

Msall agreed that a $500 million increase that would be Chicago’s “largest in modern history” is “not the full answer and it’s not going to be enough because we’ve dug the hole so deeply” by underfunding pensions and granting benefits that taxpayers cannot afford.

“We are going to have raise taxes very significantly just to pay the interest on the debt we have built up and it’s not going to be enough to save the city of Chicago,” he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Still interested in that bridge?

Head on over to the Chicago Sun-Times website here to read- no, digest- what looks to be in store for the “Windy City” in the coming years.

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

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Chicago’s Financial Reckoning Day Has Arrived

Chicago readers of Survival And Prosperity were warned that the City of Chicago’s poor financial health would result in a sustained hunt for much more revenue (new and higher fees/fines/taxes) for the foreseeable future.

The warnings were constant, and issued over the last couple of years.

So the following headlines on the websites of the two major local papers should not have come as a surprise to the courageous Chicagoans who’ve continued to read this blog on a regular basis despite the steady barrage of depressing news coming out of the “Windy City” lately.

“Emanuel to seek $500 million property tax hike”
Chicago Sun-Times website, September 2, 2015

“Emanuel set to call for largest property tax hike in modern Chicago history”
Chicago Tribune website, September 3, 2015

By the looks of things, Chicago’s financial reckoning day has arrived.

Time to pay the taxman.

Hal Dardick and Bill Ruthhart reported on the Tribune website this morning:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to call for the largest property tax increase in modern Chicago history to raise enough money to make a major pension payment for police and firefighters next year, the mayor’s City Council floor leader and a City Hall source told the Chicago Tribune late Wednesday.

The mayor also plans to push a new garbage collection tax, a new per-ride fee on taxis and ride-hailing services such as Uber and a new tax on electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman broke all this down brilliantly last night. The City Hall Reporter wrote:

Sources said the 2016 budget that Emanuel will present to the City Council on Sept. 22 will include a $450 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions the mayor once hoped to shore up with revenues from an elusive Chicago casino.

In addition, Emanuel will ask aldermen to adopt a separate levy of $50 million to bankroll school construction and pay off old projects…

Emanuel has offered to raise property taxes by an additional $170 million for the schools, but only if teachers accept the equivalent of a 7 percent pay cut and the state reimburses CPS for “normal” pension costs…

Together, the increases for both the city and CPS have the potential to raise the annual property tax bill for the owner of a home valued at $250,000 by nearly $700.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Home valued at $250,000 by nearly $700.”

Holy crap. That’s some pretty serious coin.

PSA from Alderman Al Czervik, Chicago City Council
YouTube Video

Keep in mind this hit to Chicago property owners doesn’t account for that other recent property tax hike I wrote about on August 27:

There are so many new and increased fees, fines, and taxes being proposed and implemented around the Chicagoland area these days, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. But here’s one Chicago tax hike that’s just been approved that’s making local headlines. Juan Perez, Jr., reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school board on Wednesday unanimously approved a budget that relies heavily on borrowed money and the hope of a nearly $500 million bailout from a stalemated Springfield, with the specter of disruptive cuts in January if that help fails to materialize.

The $5.7 billion spending plan contains another property tax hike — an estimated $19-a-year increase for the owner of a $250,000 home — as well as teacher and staff layoffs. The Chicago Board of Education also prepared to go to Wall Street to issue $1 billion in bonds and agreed to spend $475,000 so an accounting firm can monitor a cash flow problem so acute that Chicago Public Schools mulled skipping a massive teacher pension payment at the end of June…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So there it is. And if Chicagoans think this major tax increase is some sort of one-off, well, I know of a certain bridge for sale out east. Like I’ve been warning all along, emphasizing it as recent as August 21:

New/higher fees, fines, and taxes, coupled with reduced government services

I also added in that post:

Chicago readers of this blog- what are you planning to do about the crisis? Or, what are you already doing? Maybe you don’t think a crisis exists? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the “Comments” section of this post, as I’d really like to talk more about this going forward.

Not much of a response was received (save for Mihail- thanks buddy). Anyone care to chime in now? Vent a little perhaps? Keep it civil, of course.

One more thing. With the cat out of the bag concerning the property tax hike and renewed attention on Chicago’s fiscal issues, I wonder what the impact will be on Chicago’s housing market (which had some positive momentum) going forward?

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


Dardick, Hal and Ruthhart, Bill. “Emanuel set to call for largest property tax hike in modern Chicago history.” Chicago Tribune. 3 Sep. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-property-tax-hike-met-0903-20150902-story.html). 3 Sep. 2015.

Spielman, Fran. “Emanuel to seek $500 million property tax hike.” Chicago Sun-Times. 2 Sep. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/928338/emanuel-seek-500-million-property-tax-hike). 3 Sep. 2015.

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My Thoughts On Chicago’s Financial Crisis

I know I’ve been blogging a lot about Chicago/Cook County/Illinois lately. Which should come as no surprise to regular Survival And Prosperity readers considering I’ve talked about how I was born on the West Side, was raised around that area, and lived on the Northwest Side until I moved to the northwest suburbs two years ago.

Both the Chicagoland area and Illinois have been on my mind a lot recently. I fear we’re on the verge of some major upheaval stemming from decades of fiscal mismanagement by policymakers from both sides of the political aisle (some might think this blog only targets Democrats- over the years I’ve demonstrated everyone’s “fair game”). And by verge, I mean in the coming weeks. Focusing on Chicago today, what might kick it off (regular observers have witnessed the crisis growing for some time now)? I suspect the following. From the Chicago Tribune website back on July 31:

At a news conference this week, the mayor would not rule out a politically unpopular property tax hike, saying he’ll wait to show his hand until September, when he rolls out “a full budget with all parts in there.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A good portion of the coming pain is going to be felt by the Chicago taxpayer. What kind of “pain” am I talking about? That which I’ve been blogging about for a couple of years now- new/higher fees, fines, and taxes, coupled with reduced government services. Last night’s post about potential revenue generators Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council are mulling over (hat tip Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times) should give Chicagoans a better picture of what’s headed their way (a property tax hike and garbage collection fee look likely). Concerning cutbacks in government services, I think that’s already begun. For example, the manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department (hat tip Second City Cop) that’s existed for some years now. Down the road, I predict the average Chicago taxpayer will find it increasingly difficult to afford living in the city, let alone doing it safely as local government struggles to provide effective, efficient services to constituents.

Now, it’s bad enough Chicago/Cook County/Illinois are in real financial trouble. But then there’s the legitimate concern of a slowing economy/recession being right around the corner, never mind that coming financial crash I started blogging about back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007.

So what’s a Chicago taxpayer to do? This former Chicago resident picked up and left the city limits in 2013. Concerned about future tax and public safety liabilities, my girlfriend and I reluctantly departed our “suburb in the city” and moved into a house in a not-too-far away authentic suburb. Granted, we’ll still be on the hook for county and state problems, but it’s what makes sense for us in the short-term.

As much as I blast Chicago on Survival And Prosperity (“tough love”), I’m not convinced the city’s going to go “belly-up.” I think there’s a good chance it could be run by something similar to the Emergency Financial Control Board in New York City from 1975 until 1986 (talked about here back in April), but even a setback like that won’t be the end of the “City By The Lake,” just like it wasn’t for the “Big Apple.” I do predict city life is going to get real hairy once the “balloon goes up,” but I think that will be the case in a lot of urban areas nationwide.

That’s my two cents on Chicago’s financial crisis- for now. Chicago readers of this blog- what are you planning to do about the crisis? Or, what are you already doing? Maybe you don’t think a crisis exists? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the “Comments” section of this post, as I’d really like to talk more about this going forward.

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

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)


Dardick, Hal. “Emanuel needs $754M more to make ends meet.” Chicago Tribune. 31 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-chicago-budget-shortfall-met-0801-20150731-story.html). 21 Aug. 2015.

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Chicago Taxpayers To Be Hit With Property Tax Hike, Garbage Collection Fee?

Chicagoans- think all the recent talk of new/higher fees, fines, and taxes is garbage?

You’re right, in a way.

I just finished reading some material from Chicago Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman over on that paper’s website.

Chicago taxpayers had better be prepared for their pocketbooks to take a hit in the coming months.

Spielman talked Sunday afternoon about the City’s need for $754 million in new revenue, and the options submitted by City Council to Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help “generate” it. That included:

• Property tax hike
• Garbage collection fee
• Ride-hailing companies (Uber) surcharge
• Congestion fee
• Bicycle license
• Gas tax hike
• Sales tax hike
• City income tax

Which ones stand a good chance of being put into play by City Hall? Spielman wrote:

Ald. Carrie Austin, outspoken chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee, put Emanuel on the spot during the mayoral campaign when she called a post-election property tax hike inevitable. But she was right — especially now that a Circuit Court judge has overturned Emanuel’s plan to save two of four city employee pension funds.

The only question is, how much will property taxes be going up?

Emanuel has already offered to raise property taxes by $225 million for the Chicago Public Schools, provided teachers accept the equivalent of a 7 percent pay cut and the state reimburses CPS for “normal” pension costs…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In a separate Sun-Times piece from last night, Spielman added:

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, said it’s no longer an issue of whether Chicago will have a garbage-collection fee. The question is, how much?

“That’s where the real discussion will take place. It will be around the cost, rather than the enablement. We need to see the numbers that show how much we’ll save and how much it would generate,” he said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Property tax hike. Check. Garbage collection fee. Check.

Waiting to see what actually transpires. In the mean time, Chicago taxpayers might want to check out those Spielman articles to get a better idea of what might be in store for them shortly.

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


Spielman, Fran. “Property tax hike, garbage fee, congestion tax all on the table.” Chicago Sun-Times. 16 Aug. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/876236/chicago-budget-revenue-tax-ideas). 20 Aug. 2015.

Spielman, Fran. “Chicago homeowners likely to pay for garbage pickup soon.” Chicago Sun-Times. 19 Aug. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/891070/garbage-collection-fee-looks-likely-chicago-homeowners). 20 Aug. 2015.

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Chicago Requires $754 Million In New Revenue, Cuts To Balance Books

For a couple of years now, regular readers of Survival And Prosperity have witnessed me blog about higher fees/fines/taxes and reduced government services as Chicago’s financial reckoning day draws closer.

I fear the pace of all this is about to pick up.

Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website late Friday afternoon:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel must come up with at least $754 million in new revenue and budget cuts to balance the city’s books, according to preliminary 2016 budget estimates the administration released Friday.

A little less than half — $328 million — would cover increased payments to the police and fire pension funds that Emanuel and aldermen did not account for in this year’s budget. That number could be even higher if the mayor doesn’t get the pension relief he’s seeking from Springfield.

In addition, City Hall must figure out how to close a projected $426 million hole in next year’s budget, an annual financial analysis showed. The shortfall comes as Emanuel has been borrowing at high interest rates to keep the city afloat.

Unlike previous years, Emanuel is not taking a property tax increase off the table. At a news conference this week, the mayor would not rule out a politically unpopular property tax hike, saying he’ll wait to show his hand until September, when he rolls out “a full budget with all parts in there.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Chicago property owners are probably hoping for an endless summer- considering what could be in store for them next month.

A significant property tax hike in and of itself might not be enough to make Chicagoans think about moving out of the city. However, sustained pressure on household finances from all applicable fees, fines, and taxes could do it, particularly if government services (public safety comes to mind here) steadily erode.

You can read the entire piece on the Tribune website here (registration required).

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

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Downtown Chicago Diners Could See 11.25 Percent Sales Tax In 2016

Back on July 16, I noted the total sales tax rate in Chicago and the rest of Cook County looks to rise to 10.25 percent again in the coming year, making it one of the highest rates in the nation.

But diners of certain downtown Chicago eateries could be hit by an even higher sales tax rate. Pointing out an additional sales tax (“McPier tax”) downtown that tacks on an additional 1 percent to food/beverage bills, Lauren Choolijian reported on the WBEZ 91.5 website yesterday:

For restaurant patrons that dine south of Diversey Parkway, north of the Stevenson Expressway, east of Ashland Avenue and west of Lake Michigan, the Cook County proposal means an 11.25 percent sales tax will be added to their tab in 2016. The McPier tax affects all food and beverage purchases prepared for “immediate consumption,” and that includes soft drinks and alcoholic beverages…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Actual and proposed fee, fine, and tax increases are making the headlines quite often these days in the Chicago area. If my suspicions prove correct (these hikes are just the first of many due to steadily eroding financial conditions), Chicagoland residents, workers, and prospective visitors will increasingly seek alternatives (for example, dining out closer to home as it concerns the above), local government revenue collection will plummet, and public services will continue to be scaled back.

Anyway, check out Choolijian’s piece on the WBEZ site here for the full details of the 11.25 percent sales tax hit.

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

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes, Tourism No Comments

Crain’s Chicago Business: City’s Rising Fees, Fines, And Taxes Look To Continue

Chicago readers of Survival And Prosperity might want to read two articles that recently appeared on the Crain’s Chicago Business website concerning rising fees, fines, and taxes in the city. In a piece entitled “Chicago’s expanding appetite for new taxes,” Thomas A. Corfman wrote Saturday:

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has held the line on property taxes, revenue from other local taxes has climbed nearly 20 percent since he took office.

A strengthening economy explains much of the surge. But Emanuel has fueled the growth by raising taxes on things such as cable TV and parking…

Keep in mind that “line on property taxes” may soon be breached. Significantly. Corfman added:

While property tax revenue has fluctuated slightly since 2011 after accounting for new construction, that’s likely to end soon. The badly undercapitalized police and firefighter pension funds are supposed to receive a state-mandated $550 million payment next year. Property taxes will likely account for the bulk of the increase, says Ald. Roderick Sawyer of the South Side’s 6th Ward

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

This comes on the heels of another Corfman article entitled, “How much could Chicago pension payments jack up your property bill? Try 30%”. He wrote on July 4:

Even as Mayor Rahm Emanuel warns about a property tax hike of up to $250 million for the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools, another big wave of increases likely is coming to rescue the pensions of police officers and firefighters.

A massive payment due to those retirement plans next year could drive up Chicago property taxes by more than 30 percent, according to a Crain’s analysis. And if the current logjam in Springfield continues, it could be a lot worse

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

As I wouldn’t steal Crain’s thunder, you can read Corfman’s July 18 article here and his July 4 piece here.

And as always, my intention is not to scare Chicago residents/businesses by blogging about such material. Rather, as a former Chicagoan this is something I feel my former neighbors should be made aware of, especially if they plan on staying in the “Windy City.”

Got to figure out some way to keep ahead of those rising fees, fines, and taxes and eroding public services.

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

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Chicago, The Taxman Cometh

“Amid comparisons to ‘shuffling the deck chairs’ on the Titanic, the City Council’s Finance Committee agreed Monday to add another $1.1 billion to the mountain of debt piled on Chicago taxpayers…”

Chicago Sun-Times website, June 15, 2015

While Chicagoans celebrate the Stanley Cup, City Hall is mulling over which taxes of theirs to hike. Derrick Blakley reported on the CBS 2 (Chicago) website before the weekend:

With a huge budget deficit ahead, Chicago city government is desperately searching for new income.

Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be seriously considering an income tax

Emanuel isn’t specifically talking income tax yet. But one of his strongest city council allies, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, is speaking up.

“In my ideal scenario, it would be a graduated income tax that would be pegged at peoples’ ability to pay,” he says.
Some of the biggest U.S. cities already tax wages, including New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco and Denver.

The tax that would also strike suburbanites who work in the city, Moore says.

The concept drew support Thursday from other mayoral allies who want to avoid a property tax hike…

Last year, the mayor rejected a city income tax. Not Thursday…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also picked up on Mayor Emanuel’s silence on the city income tax issue, writing Friday on the paper’s web site:

In a major break from the past, Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not immediately shoot it down…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The Board added:

Might a Chicago income tax have bad, unintended consequences? Of course. And we’re by no means endorsing the idea here. But so might all the other taxes Chicago needs to consider: a commuter tax, a modest financial transaction, the broadening of the sale tax to cover more services, closing some tax-increment financing districts, congestion pricing and a pay-as-you-go garbage fee, to name some of the biggies.

Each revenue-generator should be vetted and priced out publicly, and the results should be explained far and wide so that the City Council and every Chicagoan come to accept two realities. One is the sheer size of Chicago’s financial crisis. The second is that no single solution will cut it. The pain has to be spread as widely as possible. The question then becomes: Which ingredients, in what proportions, make for the best stew — or at least the one that goes down easiest?

We have long said that raising property taxes — the city’s most stable revenue source, and one of the few it controls directly — is inevitable. But if property taxes are raised too much, both for Chicago and the school system, the city we know and love will cease to exist. An already dwindling middle class will flee.

A property tax hike should only be part of that bigger stew…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Testing the waters? Conditioning Chicagoans for inevitable tax hikes?

All I know is this. Higher fees/fines/taxes. Reduced government benefits/services. That’s what I see coming down the pipeline for not only Chicago but the rest of the nation in due time.

Prepare accordingly.

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


Blakley, Derrick. “Chicago Eyes A City Income Tax On Residents, Suburbanites Who Work Here” CBS 2. 11 June 2015. (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/06/11/chicago-eyes-a-city-income-tax-on-residents-suburbanites-who-work-here/). 16 June 2015.

Editorial Board. “Editorial: Mixing up a stew of Chicago revenue solutions.” Chicago Sun-Times. 12 June 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/7/71/685251/editorial-16). 16 June 2015.

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Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes No Comments

Tax Hikes Coming As Illinois Public Pension Crisis ‘Fix’ Shot Down By State Supreme Court?

This weekend Illinoisans heard about the Friday ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on a law that was celebrated by many as a big step in resolving the state’s well-publicized public pension crisis. Rick Pearson and Kim Geiger reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt…

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.

On Friday the justices rejected that argument, saying the law clearly violated what’s known as the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Can’t say I was too surprised to hear that ruling handed down.

As for the ramifications on Main Street? Pearson and Geiger added:

The ruling means Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have to come up with a new solution after justices appeared to offer little in the way of wiggle room beyond paying what’s owed, which likely would require a tax increase. Coming up with a way to bridge a budget gap of more than $6 billion already was going to be difficult with little more than three weeks before a scheduled May 31 adjournment, and now the pension mess has been added to the mix.

Rauner, who argued during last year’s campaign that the law was unconstitutional and didn’t go far enough to reduce the pension debt, said the court ruling only reinforces his approach of getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment that “would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“A constitutional amendment”

I’m not so sure how that would work out. Consider what Natasha Korecki reported over on the Chicago Sun-Times website Friday:

But it was unclear how such an amendment would help solve the crisis. It arguably could not bring savings because, according to the court ruling, a new law cannot retroactively affect those who are already in the system, said Charles N. Wheeler III, Director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield…

“Likely would require a tax increase”

I suspect- as Survival And Prosperity has been warning for some time now- that Illinoisans will soon be hit with significantly-higher taxes as a consequence of those $6 billion state budget and $105 public pension gaps. Korecki added:

An Illinois Supreme Court ruling that struck down a pension reform law on Friday could have just opened the door even wider to the prospect of deep cuts to services and new taxes for Illinois residents.

With only three weeks left until lawmakers have to pass a balanced budget, legislators now have even more political cover to raise taxes and cut spending following the high court’s decision that it was unconstitutional for the state to pare back promised pension benefits for state employees…

“This ensures that however we resolve this, the citizens of Illinois will be paying more for less service from the state of Illinois,” Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said of Friday’s ruling. “I think that’s an inevitable outcome from this.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

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

Something I’ve kept warning about on this blog, with regular observers of Springfield now talking it about these days (if they weren’t already).

I wonder to what extent Illinoisans have prepared/are preparing for such a scenario? I’ll be talking more about this later.

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


Pearson, Rick and Geiger, Kim. “Illinois Supreme Court rules landmark pension law unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 8 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-pension-law-court-ruling-20150508-story.html#page=1). 11 May 2015.

Korecki, Natasha. “State Supreme Court pension ruling provides political cover to cut more, tax more.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 May 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/590030/state-supreme-court-pension-ruling-provides-political-cover-cut-tax). 11 May 2015.

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Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Residents: ‘Sacrifice’ Looming

A lot less government services. Much higher fees, fines and taxes.

An outcome I see for Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents down the road.

And based on comments made by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and new Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday, our destination is in sight. Governor Rauner said in his inaugural speech Monday:

We have an opportunity to accomplish something historic: to fix years of busted budgets and broken government; to forge a path toward long-term prosperity and a brighter future; to make Illinois the kind of state others aspire to become, a national leader in job growth and education quality.

To achieve that will require sacrifice. Sacrifice by all of us- politicians and interests groups, business and labor, those who pay for government and those who depend on government’s services. Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice so that one day we can again share in Illinois’s prosperity. We all must shake up our old ways of thinking…

The 42nd governor added later on in his address:

Illinois is our home- and right now our home is hurting. But home and family are worth sacrificing for… worth fighting for. Together, let’s do the hard work to rebuild our home…

“Sacrifice.” Call me crazy, but something tells me the burden of bailing out the “Land of Lincoln” won’t be falling upon the backs of the rich and powerful.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also gave a speech yesterday in which she hinted at county residents having to make future sacrifices. John Byrne reported on the Chicago Tribune website Monday:

Preckwinkle gave a speech to the City Club of Chicago about her first-term achievements and laid out a blueprint for her second four years in office. Asked afterward about the likelihood she will be forced to raise taxes, Preckwinkle said only that it will be “a challenge” to meet the county’s financial obligations.

“We have significant challenges, both around the spike in our debt obligations and our pension obligations, and my charge to our chief financial officer is that he has to do everything he can to be creative in figuring out how to address these problems,” she said…

Preckwinkle crafted a $4 billion budget for 2015 that includes no new taxes, fines or fees. She has warned that the 2016 budget will be far trickier to balance because debt payments will increase and the county could need to come up with $144 million more to pay into the county workers retirement system if she gets the pension fund changes she has asked for from the General Assembly.

“I can’t predict now, because we don’t even have a pension bill, how much it’s going to cost or what it’s going to take, but it’s going to be a real challenge, I’ll say that,” she said Monday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Coupled with Chicago’s financial issues, all I can say to Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois residents at this point in time is- better start figuring out a way to cope with less government services and higher fees/fines/taxes from local and state government in the coming years. The politicians can only kick the can down the road so far.

You can read Governor Rauner’s entire inaugural address on the Chicago Sun-Times website here.

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


Byrne, John. “Preckwinkle details 2nd-term plans for Cook County.” Chicago Tribune. 12 Jan. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-preckwinkle-second-term-agenda-met-0113-20150112-story.html). 13 Jan. 2015.

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Chicago’s 2015 Budget Includes Tax And Fee Hikes

Gee, who could’ve anticipated new fee and tax hikes look to be in store for Chicago next year?

From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website this morning:

[Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel will campaign for re-election on a budget that raises $62.4 million through “targeted” tax hikes and closing “loopholes,” which amounts to the same thing.

People who live, work and play in Chicago will be paying more for everything from parking and vehicle leasing to cable television and stadium skyboxes…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

These individuals have been doing that for a number of years now. Hal Dardick pointed out over on the Chicago Tribune site:

As the Chicago City Council prepares to approve his latest budget Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel repeatedly has reminded voters that he didn’t raise city property taxes during his first four years in office.

But that doesn’t mean homeowners haven’t had to pay. Under Emanuel, vehicle stickers cost more. Cable TV and phone taxes went up. And water and sewer fees increased significantly…

Taken together, Emanuel’s hikes mean the typical Chicago family will pay about $481 more to the city next year than it did in 2011. That’s the equivalent of a typical Chicago homeowner paying 60 percent more in city property taxes, which are nearly $800 a year for city and library services on a $250,000 home…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Nearly $800 a year for city and library services on a $250,000 home”

In the Chicago neighborhood I recently moved out of, I’m not sure if any inhabitable houses at that price range with more than 2 bedrooms/1 bath even exists. So I’m guessing a number of my old neighbors- who already shoulder a significant tax burden for the city- will be somewhat pissed to hear of this “good news” coming out of City Hall.

That being said, it’s not exactly Chicago’s “financial reckoning day” we’re talking about here. But it’s probably not what Chicagoans want to deal with as the holiday season kicks-in.

As for the well-publicized pension crisis going on in the “Windy City,” Spielman added:

By December, 2015, the City Council must decide whether to raise property taxes — or find other new revenues — to fund a state-mandated, $550 million payment to shore up police and fire pension funds.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So a property tax hike might also be coming down the pipeline.

One more thing. Regarding the ongoing manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department? That doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved in 2015. From the Sun-Times piece:

Once again, the mayor’s budget includes only enough money to keep pace with retirements. It also includes roughly $70 million in police overtime, down from $100.3 million in 2013 and a projected $95 million this year…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Crime is down!” Yeah, whatever.

As always, I’m glad to see Fran Spielman and Hal Dardick are on top of their game.

What does all this mean for Chicago residents/workers/visitors?

It’s probably wise to budget a good deal more money for anything city-related next year. Even more so in 2016 considering what could be in store with the city’s public pension mess and what Cook County is telegraphing these days (blogged about Monday).

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

(UPDATE: The Chicago City Council approved Mayor Emanuel’s proposed 2015 city budget Wednesday by a vote of 46-4, and “puts off dealing with the city’s most vexing financial woes until after next year’s elections” according to the Tribune Thursday morning)


Spielman, Fran. “Chicago City Council set to pass Emanuel’s $7.3 billion budget.” Chicago Sun-Times. 19 Nov. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/chicago-city-council-set-pass-emanuels-73-billion-budget/wed-11192014-742am). 19 Nov. 2014.

Dardick, Hal. “Higher Emanuel fees and taxes add up.” Chicago Tribune. 19 Nov. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-emanuel-budget-2015-met-20141118-story.html#page=1). 19 Nov. 2014.

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2015 Cook County Budget Holds Line On Taxes, Fines, And Fees- For Now

Cook County residents dodged a bullet this time around.

John Byrne and Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Friday won easy approval for her $4 billion 2015 budget proposal that includes no new taxes, fines or fees

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

For now. Byrne and Dardick added:

Preckwinkle earlier this year warned that the 2016 budget will be far more difficult to balance because debt payments will grow and the county will need to pay $144 million more into the county workers’ retirement system if she secures the pension fund changes she seeks from the General Assembly…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know I suspect those “new taxes, fines, or fees” are coming soon. I wrote back on May 22:

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)

Only a matter of time now before those hikes kick in. As I also noted in that May post:

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.

I’d say that probably applies to all Americans, come to think of it.

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


Byrne, John and Dardick, Hal. “Preckwinkle wins easy approval of $4 billion budget.” Chicago Tribune. 14 Nov. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-cook-county-budget-met-1115-20141114-story.html). 17 Nov. 2014.

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Chicago Faces $297 Million Budget Shortfall In 2015, $588 Million Deficit By 2017

I’ve been wanting to blog about the latest City of Chicago annual financial analysis for some time now. This afternoon I’m finally getting that chance. From Fran Spielman (who’s done a terrific job breaking those analyses down the past couple years I’ve been paying attention to them) on the Chicago Sun-Times website back in August:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ruled out a pre-election increase in property or sales taxes, but he’ll have to find another way to close a $297.3 million budget gap that assumes the Illinois General Assembly will lift the pension hammer hanging over Chicago.

State law requires the city to make a $550 million contribution to shore up police and fire pension funds that have assets to cover just 30 and 24 percent of their respective liabilities.

If Emanuel chooses to fund the payment with property taxes, the city’s levy must be raised in 2015 so bills issued the following year reflect the increase.

Instead of including that payment in the financial analysis now used as a substitute for Chicago’s preliminary budget, the mayor left it out, assuming he will get both revenue and reform before the payment is due

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

$297.3 million budget shortfall for Chicago in 2015- assuming the city gets “relief” from that State of Illinois-mandated $550 million pension fund contribution.

From what I’ve read, that looks to be a big assumption.

Still, the projected 2015 budget gap that’s being advertised by City Hall is significantly rosier than a year ago (big election coming up in February 2015 you know).

I blogged back on August 1, 2013:

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: Bold added for emphasis)

Returning to that Sun-Times piece from this August, Spielman added:

As for the more manageable, $297.3 million gap, sales and property taxes are off the table. But [Budget Director Alexandra] Holt refused to rule out other tax and fee hikes after exhausting further cost-cutting that might include layoffs

Last year’s financial analysis projected a $338.7 million shortfall that would balloon to $994.7 million in 2015 and $1.15 billion in 2016 without a painful mix of employee concessions and new revenues. This year’s version takes the 2017 shortfall down to $587.7 million, but only if the mayor’s risky assumptions are correct.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That classic Benny Hill skit about why one shouldn’t assume things comes to mind right now.

Okay. Looking at the actual 2014 annual financial analysis on my laptop screen right now, I see that $297.3 million budget shortfall projected for Chicago in 2015, a $430.2 million gap in 2016, and that $587.7 million deficit in 2017 that Spielman mentioned.

The trend is definitely not Rahm’s and the City’s friend in this instance.

Here’s what I see going down for the “Windy City.” The Machine will mobilize as many kissing cousins (Democrats elsewhere in the state) as it can to get Mayor Emanuel his much-desired pension “reform.” Basically “kicking the can down the road.” If full reform isn’t achieved, perhaps partial “relief”?.

Of course, the City of Chicago will still have those snowballing budget shortfalls to contend with. At first, I anticipate a lot of stupid spending still going on, with only some belt-tightening and layoffs here and there (“Kiss Your Clout’s Ass” Day soon to be a much celebrated event?). And fees, fines, and taxes will be heading up (but not property and sales taxes initially). But I suspect as Chicago’s “day of reckoning” gets closer, all these measures will be intensified.

Think major cost-cutting in conjunction with a much stronger attempt to increase incoming revenues.

Like my forecast for the rest of the nation- regrettably, I see things getting a lot worse before they get better again.

You can view the entire 2014 City of Chicago Annual Financial Analysis on the City of Chicago website here (.pdf format).

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


Spielman, Fran. “City budget puts off day of reckoning until after election.” Chicago Sun-Times. 1 Aug. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/city-budget-puts-day-reckoning-until-after-election/fri-08012014-1210am). 23 Sep. 2014.

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Flee Chicago By The End Of 2015?

April 7, 2015.

That’s the date of the next Municipal Runoff and Supplementary Aldermanic Election in the wake of the February 24, 2015, Municipal General Election in the city of Chicago, Illinois.

And that would be the ideal deadline for moving out of the “Windy City” if I still lived there due to the likelihood of fees, fines, and taxes being hiked (even more than they already have) shortly thereafter, along with additional government “belt-tightening.”

If not April 7, definitely by the end of the year. Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website right before the weekend:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen won’t grapple this fall with the financial reckoning the city faces over its underfunded police and fire pension systems, budget officials acknowledged Thursday.

Instead, the Emanuel administration plans to take advantage of a state law that gives it until December 2015 to decide to make changes to its property tax levy. For years, both the current and former mayor have been saying property taxes would have to be hiked or services drastically cut to come up with the extra $550 million.

By the end of next year, the February city elections and any potential April runoffs will be history. Delaying a decision also will buy the city more time to get the General Assembly to enact pension changes that could significantly reduce the required payments to the two retirement funds..

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Fine. So the Illinois General Assembly votes to allow the City of Chicago to “kick the can down the road” on its pension fund payments. The well-publicized crisis isn’t going anywhere, as the public sector retirees are still owed their money.

(Editor’s note: Check out this graphic on the Tribune website showing Chicago’s pension debt rank compared to the 25 largest U.S. cities and Puerto Rico. It’s disturbing.)

And how about that “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the city’s head in the form of long-term debt it’s on the hook for? Fran Spielman reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website on July 26, 2013:

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.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember- those figures were from a year ago. Updated numbers should be out shortly.

Yep. If I hadn’t departed the city like I did last year, I’d be making plans to leave Chicago by the end of 2015 at the latest.

But that’s me. I understand individual circumstances vary, and there are residents who can’t leave or choose not to.

Despite what others may think, I have an idea this group can still weather the coming storm if they’re really up to the task. I’m guessing it will be somewhat harder though residing in a city already burdened with significant financial problems when challenging times arrive.

More about this in future posts…

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


Dardick, Hal. “Chicago’s day of reckoning over pensions delayed.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Aug. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/ct-rahm-emanuel-budget-hole-met-0801-20140801-story.html). 5 Aug. 2014.

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). 5 Aug. 2014.

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Survival And Prosperity
Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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