Feb 26, 2024 - News

Court ruling jeopardizes "mansion tax" in Chicago

Photo of people shouting in a hallway

Backers of the Bring Chicago Home referendum at the Richard J. Daley Center last Friday. Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Mayor Brandon Johnson's push to fund services for the unhoused with a real estate tax hike hit a roadblock Friday when a Cook County judge sided with business groups suing to get it off the March ballot.

Why it matters: The proposal, known as Bring Chicago Home, is a cornerstone of Johnson's progressive agenda and this development could derail it until at least the fall.

State of play: As of Sunday evening, voters had already cast 2,611 early and mail ballots with the referendum on it.

  • Chicago Board of Elections officials said they won't be changing the ballot until the court issues explicit orders, but for the time being, referendum votes won't be counted.

Catch up quick: Johnson and advocates worked for months to place the referendum on the ballot, promising to raise more than $100 million a year for homelessness services by increasing taxes on properties that sell for $1 million or more.

  • Opponents said the tax hike would further hurt the commercial real estate market, which still hasn't recovered from the pandemic.

Zoom in: The real estate business groups who sued had argued that the wording of the three-part ballot question constituted "log-rolling" because it blended a tax hike with a tax cut to incentivize voters to pass it. Representatives for the business groups celebrated Friday, saying they were "gratified" by the ruling.

The other side: Johnson said he believes the referendum is "legally sound" and his team will be "exploring every legal option available."

What's next: The organizers of the ballot measure tell Axios they'll be appealing to the First District Appellate court as soon as the Cook County judge signs her order.

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