The head of the city’s largest business group lashed out at Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed 2022 budget, saying it raises property taxes too high, needs to do more to fight crime and provides inadequate help to the hospitality industry in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In remote testimony in a hearing on the mayor’s $16.7 billion spending plan, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jack Lavin called on the mayor to drop at least some of the $76 million in additional property taxes she seeks to impose, taxes he said would disproportionately impact business.
With Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi in the process of sharply raising assessments on commercial and other business property, companies “face a double whammy,” Lavin said.
Some of the $76 million already was programmed in earlier years as part of the city’s strategy to pay off old pension debt. But $22.9 million of that is new, with the city for the first time adjusting property tax levies for inflation instead of holding them constant, as other mayors have done.
“Let’s put the (inflation) increase on ice for at least two years,” Lavin said.
In a follow-up phone interview, Lavin urged the city to use some of the $2 billion it’s getting in the latest federal COVID relief program for temporary property tax relief. City officials and the chamber “are talking,” Lavin said, but no deal has been struck.
In the phone interview, Lavin somewhat toned down his remarks about crime.
While the subject definitely is on his members’ minds, the mayor is to be “commended” for including more money in her budget both for police and anti-violence programs, Lavin said. But the city “definitely needs to move ahead” with using that money to fill police vacancies in districts around the city.
Lavin also urged the city to do much more to help restaurants, hotels and others in the hospitality industry, which is just starting to recover from COVID. Much of the city aid Lavin wants would go to workers, and other aid would keep outlets from permanently closing.