How Brandon Johnson plans to impose $800M in taxes if he’s Chicago’s mayor

How Brandon Johnson plans to impose $800M in taxes if he’s Chicago’s mayor

Brandon Johnson’s mayoral campaign still states his six new taxes on “the suburbs, airlines and ultra-rich” would generate $800 million, even after he dropped his Metra tax. But the math is fuzzy, especially his claim $800 million can become $2 billion.

Mayoral challenger Brandon Johnson introduced his “Better Chicago Agenda” Jan. 23, predicting his plan to tax “the suburbs, airlines and ultra-rich” would generate $800 million in new revenue for the city.

Johnson planned to tax suburbanites $40 million as a “city surcharge” for commuting to work via Metra. The idea generated a firestorm. His spokesperson told CBS Chicago the tax was no longer being considered.

So that’s $40 million less, but his campaign website still shows he would add $800 million in taxes if he were mayor. Based on what he’s said and the amounts he’s stated, Johnson’s tax increases total $748 million.

The Cook County Commissioner and union lobbyist said he would tax: 

  • $98 million from “making the big airlines pay for polluting the air” in Chicago neighborhoods
  • $400 million from raising the real estate transfer tax on high-end home sales on properties worth more than $1 million over four years
  • $100 million from new “user fees on high-end commercial districts frequented by the wealthy, suburbanites, tourists and business travelers.”
  • Over $20 million from reinstating the $4-a-month-per-employee “head tax” on “large companies” that perform at least half their work in Chicago.
  • $100 million from taxing financial transactions at a rate of $1 or $2 for every “securities trading contract.”
  • $30 million from increasing Chicago’s already nation-leading hotel tax

In total, the revenue plan put forth by the Chicago Teachers Union-backed candidate falls about $52 million short of the amount he’s advertised. Johnson has offered no specifics on how he came up with those figures or what tax rates would need to be to raise this revenue.

Johnson was similarly vague about how his $800-million plan would produce about $2 billion in “revenues and efficiencies” for the city. Based on the efficiencies enumerated in his “Better Chicago Agenda,” city leaders would only save about $430 million.

  • $150 million from “cutting top-heavy administration to achieve the nationally recommended 10:1 worker to supervisor ratio”
  • $20 million from “IT costs”
  • $100 million from “using more civilians in place of sworn officers where possible and eliminating non-sergeant supervisory positions like public relations specialists and graphic artists”
  • $150 million from implementing “a comprehensive plan to address health care costs”
  • $10 million from “partnering with Cook County Health on expanded mental health services”

He predicted the additional tax revenues would also allow Chicago to freeze property taxes and cancel the automatic escalator, which hikes the property tax annually to match inflation.

While Johnson said he doesn’t believe raising these taxes will drive businesses and residents from Chicago, a recent survey found 34% of Chicagoans would leave the city if given the opportunity, citing taxes and affordability as their No. 2 concern behind crime.

The majority also said they support a citywide property tax freeze and lowering taxes on businesses, rather than making residents and businesses pay more to cover the city’s budget shortfalls.

Johnson is a Cook County Board commissioner and earned over $390,ooo in five years as the Chicago Teachers Union legislative coordinator. He helped organize three teachers strikes in the city and has pushed the Red for Ed agenda intended to spread the Socialist doctrine among teachers.

He has received nearly $3.2 million in contributions from CTU and its affiliates, and the CTU just voted to take $8 per month from each member’s dues to back Johnson.

Both Johnson and Paul Vallas are headed into a runoff election April 4 to decide which candidate will take the city’s top office for the next four years.

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