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Judge rejects Chicago measure to raise luxury tax, fund homeless services

A Cook County judge has rejected a Chicago ballot measure that would have raised a one-time tax on luxury properties to fund homeless services after opposition from real estate and business groups.

Friday’s ruling by Judge Kathleen Burke came as early voting for the March 19 Illinois primary has already begun. Tax measures will appear on the ballot.

The measure would increase the so-called real estate transfer tax on properties worth more than $1 million, while lowering it for properties worth less.

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Supporters, including first-term Mayor Brandon Johnson, estimate it would generate about $100 million a year in revenue, which would be used to fund housing and other services, including mental health care. Cities such as Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico, have adopted similar tax increases.

Chicago skyline at dusk. (St. Petersburg)

Maxika Williams, president of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, released a statement expressing disappointment with the ruling.

“We are outraged by the fact that these few wealthy real estate interests would rather spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to maintain a brutally unjust status quo than pay their fair share of taxes. ” said Williams.

Approximately 68,000 people experience homelessness in Chicago.

Business groups, including the International Association of Building Owners and Managers, argued the tax would unfairly hurt commercial real estate as downtown Chicago continues to struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Lawyers for Bring Home Chicago, which supported the ballot measure, said they would appeal any decision that would block efforts to put the question on the ballot.

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