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Lake Shore Drive Tolls, City Income Tax Among Inspector General Joe Ferguson's Budget Suggestions

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Charging a $5 toll for using Lake Shore Drive and introducing a separate city income tax are just two of several ideas City Hall's watchdog has for closing the city's massive budget gap.

Those ideas are part of a menu of options -- 44 in all -- offered up Monday by Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson to cut spending and increase revenue for the city in advance of next month's expected release of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's first budget. In total, the report presents $3 billion in possible savings or new revenue.

"In last year’s report, we provided data and analysis explaining that Chicago’s budget was fundamentally broken," Ferguson said in a statement. "One year later, the situation remains difficult. The new Administration has candidly acknowledged the fiscal mess it inherited and has publicly committed itself to fixing it."

"This report is meant to support efforts to balance the budget by arming the public and City officials with context, basic data, and analysis needed to inform the tough choices ahead," Ferguson added.

Likely the most controversial idea introduced by Ferguson -- tolling Lake Shore Drive motorists as much as $5 to drive to the Loop via booths installed at every entrance and exit to the iconic roadway -- was laughed off by Chicago's City Council on Tuesday, while they did not shoot down other ideas, including a 1 percent city income tax and a separate commuter tax, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Other suggestions included in the report are less surprising, such as cutting nearly 1,400 management jobs from city government and privatizing garbage collection and switching to a grid-based collection system citywide, ideas Ferguson said could save the city over $200 million. All told, as WBEZ reports, it seems that the report will likely be better received this year than it was last year, when the Daley administration essentially told the former inspector general to stay away from the city budget process.

The report [PDF] also includes recommendations to eliminate all tax-increment financing districts, to charge Lollapalooza the amusement tax the festival has somehow avoided paying, to double the city ambulance fee and to privatize parking enforcement.

Photo by PhillipC via Flickr.

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Inspector puts city income tax, Lake Shore Drive tolls on table