Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is poised to squeeze city residents with the largest tax hike in modern Chicago history on Oct. 28. His plan includes a $588 million property-tax hike, a new $9.50 per-month garbage fee and other payment increases.
Emanuel isn't the only politician soaking Chicagoans for more money. His counterparts in the state Capitol are hoping for more tax dollars as well.
Illinois has been without a state budget for more than 100 days; budget gridlock in the General Assembly has carried on for months as politicians who would continue asking for more from Illinoisans face off against those who want to fix Illinois' structural problems, including more than $111 billion in pension debt and $6 billion in unpaid bills.
Unsurprisingly, Chicagoans aren't warming to the idea of more tax hikes - on the state or local level.
When pollsters at Ogden & Fry surveyed people in Cook County, including many Chicagoans, on Oct. 21-22 to learn more about their opinions on government finances, more than 50 percent said they would have an unfavorable view of any elected official who votes for tax increases to balance the budget. The pollsters also found that the Illinoisans surveyed blame state politicians and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan for the budget gridlock.
Raising tax revenues on the back of a booming economy is one thing, but neither Chicago nor Illinois is experiencing growth on par with the rest of the country. And people are starting to feel the pain: Fewer than 1 in 5 Chicagoans think the city's economy is becoming more prosperous.
The message is clear: The people of Illinois are frustrated with politicians who are unwilling to do what's needed. Just 9.8 percent of the Illinoisans Ogden & Fry surveyed approve of the General Assembly's performance; that's even worse than Congress' approval rating, which sits at 19 percent.
The hard truth elected officials are unwilling to face is that the only way to balance the budget in the long term without cutting services is through cost-saving measures and structural reforms to spur a moribund state economy.
As long as politicians refuse to do what's necessary, those in need will continue to go without essential services, people counting on life-changing lottery winnings will continue receiving IOUs and Chicagoans will continue having to worry each day if they're going to be able to pay the bills - in addition to footing the tab for more and more tax hikes.