Chicago ordinance would require fiscal impact analysis before City Council votes
November 9, 2017

Chicago ordinance would require fiscal impact analysis before City Council votes

A proposal co-sponsored by 32 aldermen would mandate the fiscal consequences of ordinances be made transparent.

With more than $24 billion in city debt, it’s easy to get the sense that Chicago policymakers are in the dark about the cost of some of their legislative actions.

This could be because, in large part, they are.

A recent proposal filed by Alderman Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward, would require the city’s financial analysis office to produce a fiscal impact assessment of future legislation before it is put up for a vote.

The commonsense proposal would be a necessary step toward controlling the city’s haywire finances. And that it’s taken until now to conceive only serves to illustrate the negligence with which policymakers have been shuffling hefty price tags through the Chicago City Council.

The ordinance would require a formal appraisal of the Council Office of Financial Analysis, or COFA, 72 hours before a vote for legislation that concerns “spending, revenue, appropriations, fiscal liabilities or the sale or lease of city assets valued at $5 million,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

The proposal decrees that the fiscal impact statement provided by COFA would include “an estimate in dollars of the anticipated change in revenue, expenditures, or fiscal liability” of a submitted City Council resolution. Moreover, COFA would provide an assessment of the “long-range effect of the measure.”

The lengths to which some public officials are willing to go to keep themselves from the cold fiscal truth was made plain when an earlier incarnation of the proposal had been killed by the Budget Committee on Nov. 3.

Fortunately, Reilly as well as Alderman Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward , filed the present iteration of the proposal Nov. 8, reemerging with 32 co-sponsors.

One can hope the measure signals a newfound interest in sound budgeting in City Council. After all, approximately half of all aldermen failed to attend city budget hearings in fall 2016 – and aldermen have been neglecting committee-meeting attendance, another critical component of their job, nearly half the time.

If city aldermen wish to do their part in curbing the crippling excesses of ballooning debt, unsound budget maneuvers and destructive deals, Reilly’s long-overdue proposal is a worthwhile first step.

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