Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is looking to borrow $1.1 billion in an effort to restructure the city's debt, a plan that will need approval from the city council.
"The city's difficulties can't be reversed overnight," Emanuel spokeswoman Kelly Quinn said in a statement. "It took decades to build the mountain of debt and substantial structural budget deficit that Mayor Emanuel inherited. The upcoming issuance - which converts bad deals from the past from short-term debt into more stable, long-term debt - is one more step toward getting the city's fiscal house back in order."
The borrowing proposal comes after the city of Chicago converted $674 million in variable-rate debt to fixed-rate debt last month. As part of that refinancing deal, the city paid an interest rate of about 5.84 percent. That rate would have been about 2.5 percentage points lower had the city's credit rating not been downgraded to junk status by Moody's Investors Services in May.
Following a briefing on the proposed $1.1 billion in borrowing -- $75 million of which would be used to provide back pay for police officers as part of their new contract -- Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) explained to the Chicago Sun-Times, "They're doing this to refinance debt payments. They were put in this position because of the downgrade and the need to clean up all the swaps and switch from variable- to fixed-interest rates."
"They kept saying, 'Mayor Daley got us into this situation.' But they were vague on every question. What are the long-term risks to the city and what are the long-term costs? We're not being shown the full scope of the problem and what the costs will be to taxpayers in the future for doing this," Waguespack said, adding that he's "not yet" ready to OK the borrowing plan.
"I don't think we have the full picture of what they're really doing," he told the newspaper. "It seems to me to be passing the buck to future taxpayers, making payments higher and the ultimate solution worse."