Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chicago aldermen find bailout tied to property sales tax

From the Tribune...

Chicago aldermen who pushed Springfield for a Chicago Transit Authority rescue plan are close to getting what they wanted. But if the deal receives final approval from the General Assembly this week, they'll also get a political hot potato some had not bargained for: a vote to raise a tax that's triggered whenever a house or other property is sold.

The mass-transit measure increases the sales tax in the six-county region. But under another provision that has escaped widespread attention, Chicago's real estate transfer tax would increase by as much as 40 percent - to $10.50 for every $1,000 of sales price from the current $7.50. And to the surprise of some aldermen, that increase would have to be approved by the City Council.

"I won't vote in favor of it, but I can't vote against it," Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) said Monday. "I'll just walk off the [council] floor."

Another $3 to the real estate transfer tax comes to an additional $900 bite on the sale of a $300,000 house, which Stone declared is "a lot of money."

Chicago's current $7.50 tax is imposed on the property buyer. It would be up to the council and Mayor Richard Daley, who supported the transit bill, to determine who would be on the hook for the additional $3.

Separate from the city's tax, Cook County and the state impose combined transfer taxes of $1.50 per $1,000 on sellers.

Stopgap funding in a "Perils of Pauline" saga in Springfield would stave off CTA fare increases and service cuts scheduled for Sunday. The House and Senate agreed last week to the sales tax and real estate transfer tax legislation that officials said would put the CTA, Metra and Pace, on firmer long-term financial footings.
Well we have a new hot potato. Here's the other one and it sounds good to me...
Gov. Rod Blagojevich insisted a new provision be added to guarantee free bus and train service for senior citizens. Lawmakers need to approve the free rides, and they're not being asked to return to work until Thursday as legislative leaders try to squeeze out enough votes.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday he expects lawmakers to go along with Blagojevich but warned of "weakness" among some who voted for it last week.

"The governor would be well-advised to get to work, stop causing conflict, stop causing confrontation, get on the phone, talk to people who are a little weak on their support for his position," Madigan said on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."

A House panel will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon in Chicago to discuss Blagojevich's senior maneuver.

Meanwhile, transit officials on Monday were grappling with questions about who would be eligible to obtain free rides. The governor's recommendation leaves it up to transit agencies.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said transit leaders will have the discretion to limit free rides to seniors living within their jurisdictions. For example, a senior from Carbondale visiting Chicago probably will not be entitled to a free ride on the CTA, she said.

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