Chicago mayor's office fighting back after real estate transfer tax question on ballot ruled invalid

Michelle Gallardo Image
Saturday, February 24, 2024
Mayor's office fighting back after tax referendum ruled invalid
Mayor Brandon Johnson is fighting back after a Chicago real estate transfer tax question on the Illinois primary ballot was ruled invalid.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson's is fighting back after a proposal to restructure the real estate transfer tax was rejected by a Cook County judge.

Johnson vowed to "explore every legal option available" to give the Chicago City Council the power to spike taxes on city homes and commercial buildings valued at more than $1 million.

The ruling was a significant political blow for the mayor, who has wholeheartedly supported the "Bring Chicago Home" measure. But even as the city continues to explore its legal options, some say it may be best to go back to the drawing board and try again next time.

Early voters heading to the polls at the Loop Super Site might be experiencing some confusion on Saturday with a key referendum question still on the March 19 ballot even after a Cook County judge declared it illegal on Friday.

"Unless there is a successful appeal of this decision, if you vote for this referendum, it is not going to be valid," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

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

While the written decision will not come until Monday, ultimately, the judge agreed with a coalition of real estate and development groups that sued, ruling that the Bring Chicago Home measure was invalid because of how the referendum question was drafted: posing three separate questions, rather than one, and using a practice called log rolling, where voters are offered one thing in exchange for another.

In this case, if approved, the measure, aimed at raising money for the city's unhoused population, would have raised the transfer tax from its current flat rate of 0.75% to 2% for properties valued at more than $1 million and 3% for properties valued at more than $1.5 million. It also would have lowered rates for the sale of lower-valued properties.

"Yes, they can appeal, but they can also go back to the drawing board and restructure the referendum and bring it back to the voters in November," Washington said.

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

But with more than 1,000 votes already cast, and the question still appearing on the ballots now, what are voters to think or do?

A spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections issued a statement on Saturday, saying, "Any previous votes for the referendum are sequestered and will not be counted at this time. This is subject to change by future court order. "

Meanwhile, supporters of the referendum are not giving up.

"The referendum is still on the ballot, no one should stop voting in favor of the referendum," said attorney Ed Mullen.