* Press release…
With Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot already facing formidable odds in her quest to convince the Illinois Legislature to approve an increase in the city’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), nine state lawmakers said Tuesday they’re not prepared to vote for the measure unless it includes funds dedicated to alleviating homelessness.
In a letter submitted to Lightfoot, members of the Illinois House of Representatives wrote, “It is our intention to support your proposed Real Estate Transfer Tax increase only if a significant amount is statutorily dedicated to homelessness, and we believe that at least 60% should go toward that purpose.”
The letter is signed by State Reps. Kambium Buckner (D-26th); Will Guzzardi (D-39th); Aaron Ortiz (D-1st); Elizabeth Hernandez (D-24th); Thaddeus Jones (D-29th); Theresa Mah (D-2nd); Delia Ramirez (D-14th); Anne Stava-Murray (D-81st); and Celina Villanueva (D-21st).
Their announcement threatens to place another hurdle in Lightfoot’s path, unless the Mayor is willing to revisit a proposal to allocate some of the tax funds to reducing homelessness – a concept that she repeatedly promised to support during her campaign for office.
While soliciting support on the campaign trail, Lightfoot touted a proposal to increase the RETT on higher-priced property sales to pay for programs that reduce homelessness and expand affordable housing. But in the wake of her election, she gutted those provisions from her plan and now is seeking legislative authorization to funnel all revenues from the tax increase into the city’s coffers to defray Chicago’s budget deficit.
On Tuesday, several of the lawmakers who signed the letter joined members of the Bring Chicago Home coalition – which has championed a measure akin to the one Lightfoot promoted in her campaign – at a news conference to say that they share the Mayor’s commitment to resolving the budget deficit, but also believe the 86,000 Chicago residents currently afflicted by with homelessness shouldn’t be a casualty to that effort.
“Chicagoans experiencing homelessness are already struggling on the margins, so we shouldn’t exacerbate their woes by leaving them stranded from the legislative support they were promised,” Rep. Ramirez said. “The proposed RETT increase is one mechanism in Mayor Lightfoot’s arsenal to rectify the budget deficit, and I would certainly favor using it for that purpose, in part. But we should do that in concert with, rather than at the expense of, Chicago’s homeless population. In fact, funding aid for the homeless is the one justification for the proposed RETT increase that has already garnered public support.”
In a 2018 public opinion poll, two-thirds of Chicago’s likely voters said they supported the proposal to increase the RETT on properties sold for more than $1 million if the money was legally dedicated to programs that relief homelessness.
This doesn’t necessarily kill the mayor’s RETT plan, but it sure isn’t a good sign. Their letter to Lightfoot is here. Lightfoot has justified her change of position by pointing to the city’s large budget deficit.
*** UPDATE ***
Rich, just an update: The number of signatures on the letter — the latest editions of it is attached — has expanded to 13. The names:
*** UPDATE 2 *** Senate President John Cullerton was asked about the issue today…
There’s a difference of opinion in our caucus on the real estate transfer tax, we’ll see. It’s just something we need to address. […]
There’s concerns that [progressives in his caucus] raised about how the money would be spent. So we talked about the fact that our state legislation would not spend the money. We would only authorize the city to spend the money. So that’s maybe something that the progressive members of the House were not aware of.