Watch CBS News

Chicago election board to appeal ruling against Bring Chicago Home tax hike referendum to fight homelessness

Board of Elections to appeal "Bring Chicago Home" tax hike question
Board of Elections to appeal "Bring Chicago Home" tax hike question 01:01

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners voted Tuesday to appeal a Cook County judge's ruling against a controversial ballot referendum to hike taxes on the sales of properties worth $1 million or more to raise money to fight homelessness.

Last week, Cook County Judge Kathleen Burke ruled any votes for the so-called Bring Chicago Home referendum would not be counted, though her ruling invalidating the ballot referendum did not explain her reasoning for invalidating the measure.

A group of real estate and other business groups had sued the election board to knock the question off the ballot, arguing it was vague and unconstitutional.

The board voted Tuesday morning to appeal Burke's ruling so that votes on the referendum can be counted. Early voting is already underway in Chicago,

The ballot measure would ask voters to authorize the City Council to restructure the city's real estate transfer tax to create a tiered system for taxing the sale of property in Chicago:

  • The transfer tax for properties valued at less than $1 million would drop from 0.75% to 0.60%.
  • Properties sold for between $1 million and $1.5 million would pay a 2% transfer tax, nearly triple the current rate.
  • Properties sold for $1.5 million or more would pay a 3% transfer tax, four times the current rate.

Supporters have estimated the Bring Chicago Home referendum would generate an additional $100 million in annual tax revenue. The money would go toward the city's efforts to fight homelessness.

Critics have argued the proposed tax question amounts to illegal "log-rolling" - where unpopular legislation is bundled with more attractive elements to secure success – in this case, combining a tax hike on the sale million-dollar properties with a tax cut on the sale of properties valued at less than $1 million.

While Burke ruled the referendum invalid, it remains on the ballot. Any votes for or against the referendum will not be counted unless an appeal succeeds in overturning Burke's ruling.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners voted to appeal Burke's ruling, arguing the decision sets a bad precedent. Opponents sued the board over the referendum, but the board has argued its role is simply to put the measure on the ballot after the City Council passed a resolution to put the question before voters during the upcoming primary election.

"We're simply, in a way, the messenger here, printing the referendum on the ballot, and that's the extent of our work here with respect to this referendum," Board Chairman Marisel Hernandez said.

The city's Corporation Counsel filed its own notice of an appeal of Burke's ruling with the Illinois Appellate Court on Monday, seeking to overturn Burke's ruling, and have all votes on the referendum counted.

The city had sought to intervene in the lawsuit, arguing that only the city's attorneys could properly respond to the lawsuit challenging the validity of the referendum, since it was the result of a resolution approved by the City Council. The city has argued the election board is not authorized to respond to the legal arguments against the tax proposal, but only to place the referendum on the ballot once it was approved by the City Council.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.