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Rahm Emanuel: ‘No increase’ in property, sales, gas taxes in ’14

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

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Updated: November 11, 2013 12:28PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday ruled out raising taxes on property, sales or gasoline in 2014, leaving a host of other increases still on the table.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Emanuel was exploring the possibility of raising the city’s tax on amusements, cigarettes, liquor and personal property lease transactions to chip away at a $338.7 million budget shortfall.

New revenues are needed to close at least part of a gap that will balloon to nearly $1 billion next year without a solution to the city’s pension crisis.

The newspaper also reported that property and sales tax increases had been ruled out, along with increased taxes on natural gas, bottled water, soft drinks and parking, which the mayor has already targeted twice.

On Wednesday, Emanuel only heightened speculation about new revenues by taking only three increases off the table.

“We’re going through the budget. We’re not done yet,” he said. “But I want to repeat. No increase on property taxes. No increase on sales tax. No increase on gas tax, and that will be three years in a row. . . . Those three will not be raised.”

“We’re going to continue to look through the system to make reforms and changes to bring efficiencies, and we’re going to continue to look at things to make sure we’re cost-efficient,” Emanuel said.

Chicago’s two-tiered amusement tax was increased 1 percent in 2005 and 1 percent again in 2009. It now stands at 5 percent for mid-size venues and 9 percent for large sporting events. The lower tax rate applies to live theatrical, musical and cultural performances in venues with more than 750 seats. Smaller theaters are exempt.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the owner of Ann Sather’s Restaurants whose ward includes Wrigley Field, said Wednesday he would oppose any attempt to increase the amusement tax, which could leave Chicago with the highest ticket tax in the nation.

“The price of events is really high — and this would make it even higher. . . . Every time you make the cost of travel and tourism higher — whether it’s conventions or family — people do have choices,” said Tunney, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development.

“Families in this type of economy make decisions about, ‘Hey I’d like to go.’ But, they know a family of four going to Wrigley Field or Sox park is hundreds of dollars. And they have decisions they can make. They can watch more on TV.”

No matter what tax increases the mayor proposes in his Oct. 23 budget address, they will pale by comparison to what happens next year.

That’s when the city is required by state law to make a $600 million contribution to stabilize police and fire pension funds that now have assets to cover just 30.5 and 25 percent of their respective liabilities.

Emanuel wants the General Assembly to impose annual property tax increases on Chicago homeowners and businesses but put off the balloon payment for police and fire pensions until 2023.

Even though he has held the city’s property tax levy, the mayor has given the Chicago Public Schools the green light to raise property taxes to the maximum allowed by state law for two years straight. The most recent school property tax increase was $88.6 million.


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