by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — As her 2020 budget plan moved one step closer to final approval on Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot shrugged off criticism that it relies in part on federal funding that remains uncertain.
The mayor’s revenue package for the 2020 budget includes a $163 million increase in Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance services, but several aldermen have said it’s risky to count on that money, which has yet to be given final federal approval.
Lightfoot said she is “very confident” that funding will come through, but said she has a backup plan in place if it doesn’t.
“We have, obviously, alternatives as we always do, but it’s not my expectation that we’re going to have to turn to them,” she said after a City Council meeting on Wednesday, when her 2020 spending and revenue packages advanced toward a final vote on Tuesday.
The mayor declined to say what options were on the table if the full Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance services is not approved.
“Obviously we have lots of different options in the event that one or more revenue sources doesn’t come through, but I don’t have any expectation that this will not come through,” she said.
The mayor’s budget team has said they expect to get word on the ambulance services reimbursement funding by the end of the month.
Meantime, the mayor also shrugged off criticism from a coalition of activists who are asking aldermen to vote down her budget plan, claiming she has broken campaign promises to significantly increase affordable housing funds, increase taxes on wealthy corporations, and reopen mental health clinics shuttered by her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel.
“The mayor’s budget does not keep those promises. It does not reopen our clinics, it does not adequately address the affordable housing crisis, and it does not ask wealthy corporations to pay their fair share,” said Abbie Illenberger, deputy director of the Grassroots Collaborative.
Lightfoot said the activists’ criticism is not valid, because “it is untethered from the reality of the fiscal challenges that we have in our city.”
“It’s easy to stand on the sideline and lob bombs. It’s much more difficult to govern, and particularly govern in a way that brings fairness, and reality, and fiscal prudence to a process,” she said.
The mayor also noted one of the groups calling on aldermen to reject her budget, United Working Families, is closely aligned with the Chicago Teachers Union, so she said it’s not surprising that they are critical of her. UWF’s chairperson is CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
“I would expect that they will have a continual drumbeat of complaints throughout my term, and it wouldn’t surprise me later in the day if they support a challenger to me,” she said.
Lightfoot said she’s confident her budget will pass on Tuesday, and she has no intention of negotiating any further with aldermen who might want changes before the final vote.
“The budget is the budget is the budget,” she said.