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Mayor Lori Lightfoot's $16.7 Billion Budget Plan On Track For Approval Next Week After Second Key Committee Vote

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City Council Budget Committee on Friday overwhelmingly supported Mayor Lori Lightfoot's $16.7 billion spending plan for 2022, thanks in large part to $1.9 billion in federal relief money that will help fund a variety of social service programs.

By a 27-5 vote, the Budget Committee advanced the mayor's 2022 budget recommendation, setting up a final vote by the City Council on Wednesday.

"This is a progressive budget. I have to be the first to say it, and I appreciate that there is more work to do, yet to come, lots of work for us to do in getting this money out the door, but appreciate the collaboration that we had on this budget, and how my colleagues pushed to make sure that there were resources for the most neediest in our community," said Ald. Sophia King (4th), who chairs the council's Progressive Reform Caucus.

The budget plan sailed through with minimal discussion, which Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), the longest-serving democratic socialist member of the City Council, said was the result of a commitment from both aldermen and the Lightfoot administration to advance a spending plan that reflects progressive values.

"The speed at which it passed reflects countless hours of work behind the scenes between aldermen, departments, mayoral staff working hard to move forward a budget that we believe will move forward the interests of our communities," he said.

He also thanked a coalition of progressive community groups for their input on the budget and their help in getting the Lightfoot administration to agree to changes such as $6.3 million in funding to hire 29 more employees at the city's mental health clinics.

"There's been a lot of progress in this budget," he said. "So I want to uplift the work of the citywide progressive budget coalition who fought hand-in-hand with labor and with progressive aldermen to win a 72% increase in the staffing at our Chicago Department of Public Health city public mental health clinics. That is unprecedented."

Aldermen also lavished praise on Budget Committee Chair Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) for making sure all of their questions about the spending plan were answered over the past few weeks of committee meetings and closed-door negotiations.

"Everything that we have asked for, we have gotten, and we have gotten in a timely way," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th). "I think you all have given us every bit of information that we asked for."

The Budget Committee also approved plans to use a portion of the $1.9 billion in federal relief funds headed to Chicago from the American Rescue Plan to help cover the costs of providing city services during 2020 and 2021, allowing the city to cancel plans for $500 million in so-called "scoop and toss" borrowing, and repay $465 million in short-term debt that was used to fill pandemic-related shortfalls.

The budget plan also includes the creation of a new subcommittee of the Budget Committee to oversee spending of the city's $1.9 billion Chicago Recovery Plan, which is being financed with $1.2 billion in federal relief funds and $660 million in new borrowing.

Investments included in the Chicago Recovery Plan include:

  • $635 million to maintain and expand affordable housing
  • $26 million in arts & culture investments to expand place-based arts and events opportunities
  • $86 million for mental health to increase access to mental health services
  • $135 million for direct violence prevention initiatives to increase community safety
  • $188 million in environmental justice and climate investments
  • $150 million for youth services and jobs to expand opportunity for youth to access employment and out-of-school programming
  • $166 million in community development initiatives to drive equitable growth and job creation.
  • $87 million in workforce and small business support to expand economic opportunity
  • $144 million in assistance to families to connect families with critical resources to improve health outcomes and increase opportunity
  • $202 million for homelessness initiatives to expand services and housing opportunities for those experiencing homelessness.
  • $144 million in other key initiatives including parks and infrastructure, food equity, and tourism and industry support

The city also will expand its force of tree-trimming crews next year, increase funding for outreach by the office of Animal Care and Control, and will add more staff at the Department of Family and Support Services to increase homeless outreach services.

"The 2022 Recovery budget is a once-in-a-generation investment that provides us with the opportunity to transform Chicago's future. This budget is a reflection of our values, the City's needs, and the priorities and ideas of our Council colleagues, community and business partners, and countless residents who were engaged in what was one of the most inclusive budget engagement processes that the City has ever seen," a spokesperson for the mayor's office said in a statement. "The amendments made today are a result of the dialogue that continued through this week with our Council colleagues and with labor partners and represent our commitment to transparency, inclusion, and equity as we build a more prosperous Chicago together."

Also, for the first time next year, Juneteenth – the June 19th anniversary of the end of slavery – will be an official city holiday in Chicago, making it a paid holiday for city employees.

The City Council Finance Committee approved a $76.5 million property tax hike and the rest of the mayor's revenue package for the budget on Thursday.

A final vote on the mayor's budget plan is expected on Wednesday.

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