CHICAGO — Mayoral challenger Brandon Johnson on Monday unveiled a tax-the-rich plan to bankroll $1 billion in new spending on everything from public safety, public schools and public transportation to new housing, health care and job creation.
Please note: The above video is the full ABC7 Chicago mayoral candidates debate
United Working Families, a progressive group affiliated with the Chicago Teachers Union that has joined the CTU in endorsing Johnson, has long championed a $4.5 billion wish list of revenue-generating ideas it says would level the playing field between Chicago’s haves and have-nots.
It includes a 3.5% city income tax on Chicagoans and suburbanites earning more than $100,000 a year; a financial transaction tax; a 66% increase in the city’s hotel tax, which is already the highest in the country; a revived employee head tax; and raising the real estate transfer tax on high-end home sales.
Johnson’s plan embraces those ideas and adds a few of his own in order to freeze property taxes on Chicago homeowners and cancel the automatic escalator imposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The escalator locks in annual property tax increases at the inflation rate.
“Our city faces a housing crisis and raising property taxes would only exacerbate that crisis, leading to a death spiral for our city,” Johnson’s financial plan states.
“As mayor, Brandon Johnson will not raise property taxes on Chicago families. Property taxes are already painfully high.”
Homeowners in predominantly Hispanic wards are struggling to hang onto their homes after enduring increases in both assessments and property tax rates, with some bills up by more than 40%.
Johnson is determined not to make the problem worse.
Instead, he wants to “make the suburbs, airlines & ultra-rich pay their fair share” to generate generate “$800 million in new revenue.”
“The suburban tax base utilizes Chicago’s infrastructure to earn their disproportionately higher income, yet their taxes fund already wealthy towns. A Metra “city surcharge” will raise $40 million from the suburbs,” his plan states, without saying precisely how the commuter tax would be imposed or at what level.
Johnson’s plan also includes:
“The revenues and efficiencies in this plan add up to about $2 billion total to close Chicago’s current, $1 billion structural deficit and add another $1 billion in new investments from the Better Chicago Agenda,” Johnson’s plan states.
“This will allow Brandon Johnson as mayor to pay down Chicago’s debts from the past by $250 million a year while also making $250 million of new, necessary investments each year. With this approach, we can move forward a flexible, realistic, ad responsible plan to dig out of mistakes of the past while investing in Chicago’s future. Finally, Chicago will have a serious, transparent roadmap to accomplish our goals – not a series of ad hoc, one-off budgetary tricks.”
Lightfoot’s current $16.4 billion budget – which also serves as her re-election platform – includes a $242 million pension pre-payment after climbing the ramp to actuarial funding of all four city employee pension funds.
The pension pre-payment and Lighfoot’s claims to have reduced the city’s debt and eliminated Chicago’s structural deficit have triggered a series of upgrades to the city’s bond rating, which helps determine how much interest the city pays to borrow money.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2023.)