A recent Chicago Sun-Times article painted an accurately bleak picture of the fiscal challenges facing Illinois and its local governments. Yet they only suggested two solutions—tax hikes and service cuts—discounting the proven role that private companies and capital can play in lowering service costs and delivering better infrastructure.
Chicago would be much worse off today without the $3.6 billion from the Skyway, garages and parking meter leases. The city was able to avoid major service cuts and tax increases that would have been an economic albatross in a recession. Further, being able to pay down debt and set aside reserves prompted a credit rating upgrade that's still saving city taxpayers millions in interest.
It's time for more. A Midway Airport lease would pay off debt, shore up public pensions, fund infrastructure and create jobs, all smart fiscal moves. Also, privatizing the management and operation of McCormick Place would make it less costly and more competitive to attract convention business back to Chicago.
Public officials across Illinois should take a page from Mayor Daley and embrace the private provision of public services to help downsize government and bridge the fiscal gap.