Candidates Grapple with Grim Budget Outlook

February 9, 2011  |  

(Chicago Tribune) — Chicago’s next mayor quickly will be tested by a budget that experts say could be more than $1 billion short after years of one-time fixes, lagging revenue and soaring costs.  The choices the city’s new leader makes in dealing with that major problem will go a long way toward determining whether he or she can live up to lofty campaign trail promises.  The candidates vying to replace the retiring Mayor Richard Daley are pledging substantial savings, but so far none has offered a detailed plan for a combination of cutting costs and bringing in more money that matches the size of the challenge the city faces.  It’s not difficult to see why. Laying out a line-by-line accounting of the painful truths that await could become divide-and-conquer campaign fodder for opponents.And voters aren’t in the best mood these days. A Tribune/WGN poll conducted Jan. 15-19 showed city taxpayers prefer service cuts to tax hikes. And in the wake of a despised parking-meter lease, they strongly oppose selling off more city assets that could raise billions in the short term.  Given that, mayoral contenders are balancing their general talk of where to cut the budget with promises to spend more money on popular programs and scale back certain taxes.

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