CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after a City Council committee backed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise the water and sewer tax to fund the city’s largest employee pension system, an alderman offered some possible alternatives he’d like to see considered instead.
Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th) said homeowners already are being hit hard by taxes, even without the city’s water and sewer fees going up nearly 30 percent over the next four years. The Finance Committee signed off on the mayor’s tax plan Thursday by a 26-6 margin, meaning the Emanuel administration has enough votes for full City Council approval next week.
The mayor’s call for a water and sewer tax hike comes a year after aldermen approved his plan for a record $588 million property tax hike, which will largely go to shoring up the police and fire pension funds. Thompson said he doesn’t want to keep going back to middle-income residents when the city needs revenue to shore up ailing employee pension systems.
“My homeowners had a large tax – almost $1,100 if you include this $250 water and sewer tax – almost $1,100 worth of taxes in the last year,” Thompson said.
Thompson is proposing having the state give the city a bigger share of revenue from video gambling. Right now the state gets 25 percent of the revenue from video gaming machines, with 5 percent going to municipalities where they are located.
“If we can combine our efforts, it’s 30 percent, and perhaps split that, you’d get 15. That could generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 million for the city, and $150 to $200 million for the state,” he said.
However, that idea would require approval by the Illinois General Assembly, and Emanuel has said he doesn’t want to allow Springfield to determine how the city gets its revenue to pay for employee pensions.
Another suggestion Thompson made was expanding the city’s sales tax to services.
“It’s a very narrow sales tax compared to other cities. So if we can expand that to include some services, perhaps, whether they be professional services. I know my partners in my law firm and some people might scratch their head, but I do think we’ve become a service industry, and perhaps that’s a more equitable or fair way on the sales tax,” Thompson said.
Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner have voiced support for expanding the sales tax to services in the past.