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Budget Gap Shuts Down City Services in Chicago

A $469-million budget gap forced a shutdown of non-essential city services, such as garbage collection, in Chicago on Monday. Ray Suarez talks to Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW about the move.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, a two-part report on how the budget crunch is impacting cities and states.

    First, Ray Suarez on the shutdown today of some city services in Chicago.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    You might have thought today was a holiday in Chicago. City Hall never opened for business, libraries and senior centers remained dark, and no garbage was picked up, all part of the Windy City’s effort to fill a 2009 budget shortfall of $300 million.

    NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW has been covering the story today and joins us now from the “Chicago Tonight” studios.

    Elizabeth, was it apparent that something was up, that thousands of people weren’t at work?

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Well, it was a different kind of day in Chicago, particularly with City Hall closed. I mean, people noticed that, for sure, and also people who wanted to go to the library. One young man said, “You know, I don’t have a computer at home, and I needed to do my homework at the library. That’s the only computer I have access to.”

    So it was noticed, and people did notice that their garbage didn’t get picked up today, either.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    As I mentioned, the gap is several hundred million dollars. Do furloughs like the one put in place today put a big down payment on closing that budget gap?

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Well, it’s a help. Initially, the budget gap out of an almost $6 billion budget was about $570 million. They now have it down to $300 million, which is still a lot of millions, as budgets go, so it has helped.

    And it was 15 furlough days, as you said. There were six furlough days and six unpaid holidays, holidays where city employees would have gotten paid, like the Fourth of July — they won’t get paid — and then these three shutdown days where the city shuts down all except for essential services.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Are there other big cuts threatened for down the road?

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