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Emanuel, Rivals Spar Over Budget, Pensions At Second Debate

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challengers addressed the city's budget and crippling pension debt in their second formal debate on Friday, and the mayor left the door open just a tiny bit on a possible property tax hike.

During the mayoral debate before Sun-Times editorial board, Emanuel noted he passed four balanced budgets without raising property taxes, and said his 2016 operating budget would not include a property tax hike, either.

"We'll present a budget, again, in October that is balanced, puts money back in the rainy day fund, continues to make the structural reforms, and eliminate that structural deficit," he said.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said the mayor paints too rosy a picture of the city's economy.

"Chicago has been slower to recovery, and has seen less prosperity than most major cities in the U.S.; and, comparatively, in the world," he said.


Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) suggested Emanuel plans to reverse course on property taxes after the election, and he pressed the point.

"Mister Mayor, is it going to be on the table, or not under the October budget? Is it yes, or is it a no?" Fioretti said.

Further pressed by members of the editorial board, the mayor eventually answered the question.

"Not for the operating budget, there will not be, no. We've had that four years in a row," he said.

Asked if there might be a property tax hike to pay the $550 million the city will owe to police and firefighter pension funds in 2016, Emanuel said "I don't know."

Fioretti said raising property taxes should be out of the question, but every other option should be up for consideration.

"We cannot raise property taxes. It would be another form of foreclosure. We are hard-hit in certain wards," he said.

Fioretti suggested the city look to a possible tax on suburban commuters coming into the city to work, and a potential financial transaction tax on the various exchanges on LaSalle Street.

Community activist William "Dock" Walls said the city should tax the rich.

"If it means taxing the 'one percent,' then you consider that. You don't take that off the table, because we cannot go year after year after year under the same crisis financing that the city of Chicago's experiencing," Walls said.

Businessman Willie Wilson also participated in Friday's debate, and voiced support for a Chicago casino, if it is owned by the taxpayers, to generate money for the city. He said raising any taxes would hurt the residents of Chicago.

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