Paul Vallas on Chicago's 2021 budget—and beyond

In an audio interview, Dave Glowacz talked about ideas for the city of Chicago's 2021 budget with Paul Vallas.

Vallas served as the city's budget director from 1991 to 1992, and served as superintendent of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001. He also ran for election to the Chicago mayor's office in 2018.

In the standard version of the episode, Dave spoke with Vallas about the proposal by Mayor Lori Lightfoot for increasing city revenue by raising property taxes.

Vallas has a problem with Lightfoot's proposal to have property taxes "increase forever" by tying growth to the consumer price index.

"It's automatic, so you wouldn't have to go back to the City Council" for approval of tax increases, Vallas said. "I think that's irresponsible."

In the premium version of the episode, Vallas talked about how to cut staff costs and turn around the city's indebted pension system.

"So much of the city is inundated with these mid-level management positions," Vallas said. "Those are the types of positions we need to be consolidating."

Also in the premium version, Vallas panned the administration's proposed debt restructuring. Dave pointed out that the administration claims that refinancing at lower interest rates will pay for increased debt caused by the restructuring. Vallas didn't buy it.

Mayoral administrations "always say that; that's always their rationale," Vallas said. "They never provide you enough detail to articulate what they're actually refinancing."

Also in the premium episode, Dave dug into Vallas's ideas for tax-increment financing (TIF). Vallas reacted to the city's $1.8 billion TIF stockpile, saying that the City Council should exercise oversight.

"The city has never adequately explained how much of the $1.8 billion in the TIF reserve fund is actually committed money," Vallas said. "The City Council could clearly give itself the capacity to demand the information."

Additionally, in the premium episode, Dave asked Vallas to give his elevator pitch for something called PILOT—whereby large nonprofit entities that don't pay property taxes are coaxed to do that voluntarily.

"There's no reason these institutions cannot help cover some of the costs of the city," Vallas said.

And in the premium episode, Dave asked Vallas how he'd react if the Lightfoot administration made him a job offer.

Finally, in the premium episode, Vallas anticipated new federal COVID-19 relief to cities—and stressed its potential for Chicago's fiscal health.

City officials should "structurally balance their budget so when that windfall comes in, rather than spend that windfall," Vallas said, "we can . . . invest that money so that it can help us address our financial issues long-term."

Length 6 minutes standard, 41.3 minutes premium.

Music: "Breakup Breakdown" by Cullah
(Copyright 2017. Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license.)

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