Emanuel Unveils Budget With More Cops, New Grocery Bag Fee

CHICAGO (CBS) — Declaring city finances were “back on solid ground” after enacting unpopular tax hikes to shore up various employee pension funds, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday announced a 2017 budget that would allow Chicago to hire hundreds of new police officers.

“It is a budget free of an immediate pension crisis, free of a black cloud of insolvency threatening the retirements of city employees and the financial future of Chicago,” Emanuel said in his annual budget address at City Hall.

Although the spending plan does not include major tax increases like the $240 million water and sewer tax approved by the City Council last month, or the record $588 million property tax hike approved last year, it is not totally devoid of new taxes and fees.

Emanuel’s proposal includes a $14-an-hour parking fee for commercial vehicles in most loading zones downtown, and a 7 cent per-bag tax on all disposable paper and plastic bags given to shoppers, to encourage them to bring their own reusable bags. The city’s failed ban on plastic bags would be repealed.

The framework of the mayor’s 2017 spending plan has been sketched out for weeks. It includes money to hire hundreds of new police officers, and a major effort to provide mentors to youths in troubled communities, plus job development.

However, the mayor said neighborhoods need even more.

“I’m announcing the creation of the Community Catalyst Fund; a neighborhood-focused fund of funds that will make targeted investments with financial managers that invest in businesses in our most resource-starved neighborhoods. The city will invest $100 million in this fund over the next three years,” he said.

Emanuel said taxpayers who already have been hit with a property tax hike and a new water and sewer tax are not carrying the entire burden for this budget.

“I want to assure Chicago taxpayers that they are not alone in their sacrifice. While homeowners are being asked to step up, we are making sure that our Central Business District and businesses across the city are also carrying their full weight as well,” he said.

The spending plan also will include increased rates at parking meters around Wrigley Field during Cubs games, concerts, and other special events, to discourage drivers from leaving their cars near the stadium on those days.

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