Gov. J.B. Pritzker casts doubt on part of Brandon Johnson’s tax plan after first meeting with mayor-elect

Gov. J.B. Pritzker casts doubt on part of Brandon Johnson’s tax plan after first meeting with mayor-elect

by Dan Petrella, Chicago Tribune

Fri, April 7, 2023, 6:01 PM CDT

Brandon Johnson will be looking to Springfield for help with parts of his estimated $450 million package of tax proposals, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker made clear after meeting Friday with Chicago’s mayor-elect that he doesn’t support a major component of the plan: a tax on financial transactions.

As part of a plan to help stabilize the city’s finances, Johnson, a Cook County commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, has proposed a tax of $1 to $2 per securities trading contract, a concept that has long been floated in the statehouse without gaining traction.

After an hourlong meeting with Johnson in the governor’s Chicago office, Pritzker told reporters during a joint news conference that he has “not stood for a transaction tax” because he believes financial services companies would relocate their operations or their computer servers if one were enacted.

“Obviously, what we all want is a thriving financial services economy in the state and the city, and it’s been that way,” Pritzker said.

Johnson did not respond directly to Pritzker’s rebuff, but said “we did not have a full conversation about the entire budget plan.”

For his part, Pritzker, who faced huge budget challenges when he took office in 2019 following the two-year budget standoff under his Republican predecessor, indicated he could relate to Johnson’s situation, saying: “The challenge of finding balance between expenditures and revenue is not lost on me.”

Another component of Johnson’s tax plan that would require approval from the Democratic-controlled General Assembly is an additional levy on high-end real estate transactions. Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned on such a tax, though she later rejected a proposal put forth by activists and progressive aldermen.

Johnson has endorsed a plan from the Bring Chicago Home coalition that would raise the real estate transfer tax for properties of at least $1 million from $3.75 to $13.25 for every $500. Sales under $1 million would remain at the $3.75 per $500 rate. The revenue from the hike, estimated at $100 million, would be used to fund permanent housing and homeless services.

With Johnson set to be sworn in just four days before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn for the spring on May 19, there is a limited window for the proposal to be addressed, though lawmakers could take it up when they return to the Capitol in the fall.

Johnson wouldn’t say whether he thinks lawmakers need to approve a transfer tax during their spring session, adding that he and the governor have yet to have a full discussion on his plans to address “structural challenges that the city of Chicago has been facing.”

“There’s certainly an urgency that the city of Chicago has, and we recognize that there is a process in order to get things done,” Johnson said. “Look, the bottom line is this: The governor and I are committed to uniting not just the city of Chicago but the state of Illinois. We both are committed to making sure that working people can live and thrive and grow in the city of Chicago.”

Pritzker and Johnson said they also discussed a shared commitment to supporting jobs and small businesses by investing in the city’s neighborhoods.

The governor, who remained neutral in the mayoral race, said the progressive Johnson’s victory over the more conservative former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in Tuesday’s runoff will boost the city’s chances of landing next year’s Democratic National Convention, which has been a major goal for Pritzker as he seeks to raise his national profile.

“He brings a real excitement to the job, I think, to the people of Chicago,” Pritzker said, “and I think that’s being felt in Washington, D.C.” — where President Joe Biden’s team is evaluating Chicago, Atlanta and New York as possibilities to host the convention.

Pritzker, a billionaire who regularly gives money to Democratic candidates and causes nationally, said Thursday on Twitter that he had contributed to the campaigns of two Democratic state lawmakers who were expelled from the Tennessee legislature for their role in a protest in the state House calling for stricter gun laws after the school shooting in Nashville last week.


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