Chicago has serious financial problems these days – in the form of a giant $838 million budget deficit.
That is what Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced to her constituents on Thursday night in a state-of-the-city speech from the Harold Washington Library auditorium.
A report from WGN in Chicago called the deficit “the largest deficit in recent history” for the city.
“If $838 million sounds like it’s big, it’s because it is,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot, who was elected in 2018 after eight years of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, spoke candidly about the challenges ahead: “Some of our solutions will be hard. Yes, they may involve putting ourselves at risk. And if it means that I sacrifice myself politically, so be it in pursuit of the right thing. We don’t have a moment to lose,” she said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
She suggested she inherited a mess from Emanuel.
“We walked into a staggeringly large budget deficit for next year and what was worse, we were not left with any credible plan on how to fix this massive problem,” she said.
Some of her solutions include raising taxes on real estate transfers and the cannabis industry, getting help from the state of Illinois on pension payments and building a Chicago casino.
Lightfoot said a casino could be a potent and lasting fix for the city’s financial problems: “If we don’t secure this casino and the revenue it creates, we will be forced to make painful choices on finding other revenue sources, and we all know what those are, the sources we wish to desperately avoid,” she said.
To obtain a casino for Chicago, Lightfoot will likely need significant help from both the governor of Illinois and the state legislature.