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City Council OKs Mayor’s $8.3B Budget

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Chicago City Hall (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago aldermen overwhelmingly approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $8.3 billion budget plan on Thursday.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the City Council voted 46-3 to approve a spending plan that will eliminate a $300 million deficit without raising taxes or city fees, in part by relying on improving tax revenues due to the economic recovery.

The mayor’s spending plan calls for $6.54 billion in expenditures from all city funds, and $8.3 billion overall when various state and federal grants are included.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

The spending plan includes money to hire 500 new police officers next year, and adds 5,000 slots to early childhood education programs, and another 3,000 slots for after-school programs. It also provides eye exams and glasses for 23,000 more needy kids.

Some aldermen, like City Council veteran Richard Mell (33rd), were effusive in their praise for Emanuel for avoiding tax hikes, as well as any new or higher city fees or fines.

“This is not a hard vote. This is probably one of the easiest votes I’ve ever taken. I think that you have righted a ship that was headed for the rocks,” Mell said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said some residents will see their streets torn up for water and sewer repairs.

“To some that might be unwelcome, but to communities like mine that are built on landfill, that has constant sewer breaks and water main breaks, to have new sewers going in, that means a lot to the people of the 5th Ward,” Hairston said.

The budget plan also will eliminate the city’s employee head tax by the end of 2013. The tax, long hated by city business owners, imposes a $2 per employee monthly tax on all businesses with more than 50 workers.

But Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), one of the three aldermen to vote against the budget, complained about the privatization of city jobs, and the hiring of only 500 new police officers next year – just about enough to keep up with retirement – after a year the city’s homicide rate has gone up significantly.

“The failure to address – effectively and efficiently – the safety in our streets strikes every neighborhood,” Fioretti said.

The only alderman not present for the budget vote was Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), who reportedly has come under federal scrutiny as part of the investigation into her husband, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., for possible misuse of campaign funds to decorate their home.