'Bring Chicago Home' real estate transfer tax question on primary ballot is invalid, judge rules

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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Judge rules Chicago real estate transfer tax ballot question invalid
A judge has ruled the "Bring Chicago Home" question on the March primary ballot is invalid, siding with a group of real estate and development groups who sued.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A judge has ruled the real estate transfer tax question, known as "Bring Chicago Home," on the March primary ballot is invalid, siding with a group of real estate and development groups who sued.

The referendum asked voters to weigh in on a proposal to raise the existing one-time real estate transfer tax from its current flat rate of 0.75% to a tiered system that would be 2% for the sale of properties over $1 million and 3% on properties over $1.5 million. The money would then be used to provide a regular income stream used directly toward programs and funds to tackle the city's homelessness problem.

Opponents insisted that the transfer tax increases would cause high-end real estate sales to plummet, causing everyone to pay higher taxes.

Late Friday afternoon, a Cook County judge rule in favor of those opponents, saying the real estate transfer tax question is unconstitutional. But what will happen now remains unclear.

The question on the ballot asks voters if they wanted a one-time tax hike on properties that sell for over $1 million while simultaneously giving a tax cut to the portion of property under $1 million.

READ MORE: Homeless advocates speak out in support of Bring Chicago Home referendum; attack ad critiques

The city council approved putting the question on the ballot last November.

The judge's ruling effectively strikes the question from the ballot, but they've already been printed and, according to the Chicago Board of Elections, more than 1,000 Chicagoans have already voted.

The City of Chicago and supporters of the measure also can appeal the ruling.

RELATED: Chicago City Council approves putting Bring Chicago Home referendum on March 2024 ballot

As that appeals process plays out, attorneys for groups who support the Bring Chicago Home measure encouraged those in favor of the program to keep voting.

"The order is not going to take this referendum off the ballot," said Ed Mullen, attorney. "People can still go out and vote for the referendum. The referendum is still on the ballot. No one should stop voting in favor of the referendum just because of today's order."

Supporters of the tax initiative were vocal about their disagreement with the ruling.

"Voters' rights have just been disenfranchised by the real estate corporate elite," said Crystal Gardner, deputy political director for SEIU Local 73.

Ald. Maria Hadden, the architect of the measure, agreed, writing in part, "a small, ultra-wealthy, special interest group is taking action to undermine the duly elected legislative body of our city."

Among the groups who sued to stop the measure, the Chicago Building Owners and Managers reacted to the ruling saying, "We are gratified in the judge's ruling... this referendum would be a backdoor property tax on all Chicagoans, and it is important that our election officials not mislead voters otherwise."

The city of Chicago also responded in a statement, saying, "Bring Chicago Home remains on the ballot. We are disappointed in the court's ruling, but will be exploring every legal option available. We firmly believe the referendum is legally sound and the final arbiter should be the voters of the City of Chicago."

The Chicago Board of Elections said the issue remains on the ballot as early voting continues, but what ultimately happens will likely be up to the courts as the appeals process plays out.