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Realtors appeal Bring Chicago Home to state Supreme Court

Opponents of the so-called “Bring Chicago Home” real estate transfer tax referendum filed an appeal Monday to the Illinois Supreme Court, again placing the referendum’s fate in judges’ hands.

Attorneys for the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago repeated arguments in their appeal that the referendum illegally forces voters to approve or reject three separate policies in one question. The referendum question includes a tax cut and two tax raises for real estate transfers of three different values.

The filing marks yet another installment in the legal feud over the referendum that would hike transfer taxes on real estate value over $1 million to raise what proponents estimate as $100 million in revenue earmarked for fighting homelessness.

Cook County Judge Kathleen Burke invalidated the referendum in late February, ruling on an initial lawsuit filed by BOMA Chicago. The ruling meant that votes on the referendum would not be counted, even as the question remained on ballots.

But last Wednesday, a state Appellate Court overturned the ruling. The decision cleared the way for the Chicago Board of Elections to determine an outcome on the referendum after the March 19 primary.

A final decision on the ballot’s future could come before the primary election, a BOMA Chicago spokesperson said.

“The referendum question is misleading and manipulative, and we believe it is important to see this through,” BOMA Chicago Executive Director Farzin Parang said in a statement.

The Bring Chicago Home coalition backing the referendum criticized the appeal Monday afternoon, accusing developers of throwing “roadblocks up in the democratic process,” Maxica Williams, chair of the End Homeless Ballot Initiative Committee, said in a statement.

“The real estate lobby continues its efforts to silence Chicago voters on a popular referendum to address a housing crisis they have created and benefit from — all while 68,000 people have no stable place to stay,” Williams said.

The Illinois Supreme Court is expected to respond quickly to the appeal and could decide as soon as Tuesday whether it takes up the case, said Max Bever, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections, the respondent named in the appeal.

A spokesperson for Mayor Brandon Johnson, who strongly backs the push to get the referendum on the primary ballot, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.

If voters approve the referendum, the Chicago City Council would then officially vote to change the city’s current, flat 0.75% tax charged on the price of a property sale. Properties purchased at less than $1 million would see their rate cut to 0.6%. Properties purchased between $1 million and $1.5 million would have a 0.6% tax on the first $999,999 of the sale price and 2% on the rest. Sales above $1.5 million would pay 0.6% on the first $999,999, 2% on the next $500,000, and 3% on the rest.

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Jake Sheridan , 2024-03-11 23:12:45

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