Teachers union-backed Chicago mayoral candidate insists plan to raise taxes won’t drive away residents

Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson is open about his plans to raise taxes on middle and upper income Chicagoans to fund increased government spending on schools and other social services. And he doesn’t think high taxes will push more residents to leave the city.

In an interview Friday with local news station CBS 2, the left-wing candidate, who is endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, said he’s going to be ‘honest with the people of the city of Chicago’ about how higher taxes are needed to pay for investments in social programs.

‘I know there’s been some pushback from a lot of the proposals, but I’m going to be honest with the people of the city of Chicago,’ he said.

Among his ideas are creating jobs for teens and hiring nurses and mental health professionals to respond to non-violent police calls. 

To pay for those investments in Chicago’s social programs, Johnson suggested new taxes financial transactions and real estate, as well as higher prices for Metra, the city’s commuter rail system. 

‘We’re looking at a lot of different measures to generate revenue. The ones, of course, that I’m very much interested in are the ones I’ve already stated; whether it’s a financial transaction tax, whether it’s a real estate transfer tax,’ he told CBS 2.

Among his most controversial tax proposals is head tax on large companies of $1 to $4 per employee, and a jet fuel tax. 

‘Are there opportunities for us to have things on the table to generate revenue from tourism? Absolutely,’ Johnson said.


Asked if he was concerned that higher taxes would drive businesses and residents out of Chicago, thereby becoming almost a regressive tax, Johnson simply said, ‘no.’ 

But economists from the Illinois Policy Institute disagree. 

‘Chicago lost 45,000 residents in 2021 due to a growing cost of living — driven by increased taxes — and an increase in crime,’ said Bryce Hill, director of fiscal and economic research at Illinois Policy, a nonpartisan group that supports lower taxes and small government.  

‘Higher taxes would likely go in large part to propping up the city’s unfunded pension debt. Chicago has more pension debt than 41 U.S. states. Higher taxes to fund debt, not services like public education or public safety, will drive more people out of the city,’ Hill told Fox News Digital. 

A recent analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute found that Illinois, which already has some of the highest taxes in the nation, lost 141,656 residents to lower-tax states last year.

Using data collected from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Tax Foundation, the analysis found the top five states that attracted new residents had total effective tax rates of 9.9% or lower. Illinois ranked in the bottom five, losing residents, with a total effective tax rate of 11.5% or higher. Illinois state and local governments took 12.9% of all the money made during 2022 in the state as taxes, the group said. 

Johnson maintains that higher taxes are necessary to pay for needed investments in disadvantaged communities. He is one of several candidates vying to oust Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the midterm election in 10 days. 

Johnson currently serves on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, representing the 1st district. Last September, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to endorse Johnson and encouraged him to get in the race. He was also endorsed by the progressive group, United Working Families. He is competing in a crowded democratic primary field that includes the incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot is leading the field in her re-election campaign according to her internal campaign polling. The Chicago mayoral election will be held on February 28.

Fox News’ Joe Silverstein contributed to this report.

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