* At one point in her Sun-Times editorial board interview yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had this to say about her idea to create a progressive rate on the real estate transfer tax, for which she’ll need Statehouse approval…
Everybody pays the same amount regardless of the value of their home. We think that’s regressive and unfair. What we’d like to see is a progressive ramp that gives relief to homeowners at the lower end of the housing market value and make people upstream pay more of their fair share.
* But Lightfoot was also asked if she thought it was politically tough to get Downstaters on board for pension help for the city at the same time that the Democrats are trying to pass a progressive income tax…
We have to look at the entire eco-system of what’s happening. If we don’t get help from Springfield, we have limited options. And you know that one of those options is property taxes - a huge property tax given the size of the deficit for next year.
So we have to think about the timing of that. Right? We go first. Twice. This year, next year before the voters go to the polls to approve the Fair Tax. So we have to take the long view of what that’s going to mean. And I’m also mindful of the fact that in this state the vast majority of high net worth earners live in the city of Chicago.
We can’t keep taxing the hell out of all of our people who make substantial income. That’s not right. That’s not fair. It’s not gonna work.
What I think she’s trying to say here is that if upper-income folks get hit with two big property tax hikes between now and next November, they’re gonna rebel at the polls against the progressive income tax. OK, but they’re still a minority, including in the city, and Lightfoot herself is trying to impose her own progressive tax.
And that last little bit about the poor put-upon rich people was a big political mistake. You can probably bet a lot of money that this quote is gonna wind up in a TV ad against the Pritzker graduated income tax. And you can also bet that the legislators who voted to put that tax proposal on the ballot are not going to be pleased with the mayor.
[Hat tip: Rachel Hinton
*** UPDATE 1 *** Good questions by Tina…
A source close to the mayor worked quickly to walk back that statement, reasserting that Lightfoot supports a graduated income tax structure for the state. But is this Lightfoot’s power play? Get in the way of a plan the governor is spending millions on, so the city can get its needed casino and pension help?
The state-city power struggle came into full view during Lightfoot’s address, in which she tied the city’s woes to getting help from Springfield.
* Meanwhile, over at Crain’s Chicago Business…
Mayor Lori Lightfoot today declared “unsustainable” the 3 percent annual compound pension COLA many city workers and retirees have been promised—and hinted she would not object if further conversations occurred about amending the pension clause in the Illinois Constitution to allow change. […]
Not only labor unions but Gov. J.B. Pritzker oppose doing that, and Lightfoot—who in other settings has said workers should not have their benefits reduced—said today that “I’m not advocating for a constitutional amendment.” […]
But a few minutes later, Lightfoot said that even if such efforts succeed, the current COLA is “unsustainable.” Asked if she’d like the constitution to be amended, Lightfoot replied that, “I’d like to put as many options as possible on the table.”
In response to another question, Lightfoot said she did not mean to imply that other pension efforts short of amending the constitution were useless, but that in today’s economy, “3 percent compounded is a tough climb.”
Pick a lane, please.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Michael Crowley at the mayor’s office…
As the Mayor has repeatedly made clear, she believes that our pension obligations are not optional. This administration is committed to finding ways to shore up the sustainability of our pension funds – including the COLA. We must secure the retirement of our working people by partnering with our allies from the State to identify progressive revenue streams. Mayor Lightfoot remains opposed to a constitutional amendment on pensions.