Chicago aldermen approve $8.2 billion city budget

FOX 32 NEWS - The Chicago City Council approved a new $8.2 billion dollar spending plan for 2017, without dissent.

Three of the fifty aldermen voted “No” on new revenue measures. But they, too, passed easily.

The crushing cost of government employee pensions will gobble up about 90 percent of the money from new taxes and fees. They include a new 7-cent fee on each disposable plastic or paper bag at stores. City Hall’s installing 762 new parking meters and raising by two dollars the cost of parking near Wrigley Field.

Big increases are also coming in both property taxes and water bills. The cost of water will rise 7 percent in Chicago in 2017, and by 7 percent every year after that until 2020 when it will cost a penny a gallon. Every penny of the quarter-billion dollars that will generate will go into City Hall's troubled Municipal pension fund.

“Unlike what's happening at the (underfunded) State (of Illinois) pension (systems,) we're actually doing our job,” said Mayor Emanuel. He boasted that two Wall Street rating agencies had raised their outlook for the City of Chicago’s credit from negative to positive.

The new 2017 budget hits home owners with a $53 million property tax increase for the pensions of police and firefighters. That’s on top of another $250 million the Board of Education imposed for the pensions of public school teachers.

One small pot of new money is not earmarked for public employee pensions. It's the $9 million expected from a new tax on plastic and paper bags at retail outlets, intended to reduce litter and waste.

Canadian tourists from Toronto laughed when we told them about it.  Their city imposed a similar fee of five cents a bag, but repealed it.

Judy Preston of Toronto told FOX 32, “People didn't like it. So we removed it.”  Toronto’s now-deceased Mayor Rob Ford pushed hard for repeal of the bag tax.

Chicago’s disposable bag fee takes effect on New Year's Day. Retailers will get to keep 2 cents of each bag fee they collect. City Hall will get 5 cents.