J.B. Pritzker is a billionaire. He’s a venture capitalist, business owner, and as of recently, a 2018 Illinois gubernatorial candidate. Billionaires that run for public office already have a leg up on their competition, but apparently the advantage isn’t enough for Pritzker.
He appears to be saving a lot of money, but not by spending less on his campaign. In fact, he just dumped $7 million into his campaign fund last month after he announced. Pritzker has found some very creative and shady ways to save massive amounts of money on his property taxes, ways that never even cross the mind of the average homeowner. Since he’s willing to game the system when it comes to his personal finances, it’s beginning to call into question his ability to lead and manage the budget of an entire state.
The billionaire lives in a mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast with his wife and their two children. According to the Chicago Sun Times, they bought the mansion for $14.5 million in 2006, and spent an additional $11-$25 million more fixing it up.
For many Americans, living in a house worth even half that much couldn’t happen in our wildest dreams. But apparently for the Pritzker’s, one mansion wasn’t enough. They later bought a smaller mansion next door from a retired banker, Burton Gordon for $3.7 million.
You’re probably wondering, what’s wrong with that? This is the United States of America, Pritzker has worked hard to earn his fortune, and even if he wanted to buy 10 mansions all in the same neighborhood, we shouldn’t judge him.
That might be true, but there’s something very strange going on with the mansion next door. Although Pritzker fixed up the outside of the house, documents filed with Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios show little attention has been given as of late to the inside. The documents state the mansion has “no functioning bathrooms or kitchen” and Pritzker’s lawyers argued it should be considered “vacant and uninhabitable.”
So the house they recently purchased that looked as though it could be used to house guests or staff, had now fallen into so much disarray that Pritzker’s own lawyers were saying it was unsuitable to have people live in it. Berrios agreed with the lawyers and the 6,387 – square – foot home that was assessed at $6.25 million just last year has now been assessed at just $1.1 million.
The Chicago Sun Times analysis showed Pritzker has saved $230,000 in property-tax breaks and refunds. The property taxes dramatically dropped from $117,087 to $19,719. That, coupled with partial refunds for taxes he had paid in previous years totaling $132,747 reach that $230,000 figure.
Additionally, he’s saved another $42,934 because of a drop in the assessment of the mansion next door Pritzker actually lives in from $14.1 million to $12.1 million.
The County Assessor will stick with the lower assessments again this year, so he can expect to save more money.
The assessment of Pritzker’s actual home seems suspicious, since he refused to let the company he hired inside because of “security concerns” and they were only given photos to base the interior assessment on.
That’s a pretty nice sum of money to keep in the bank for the guy that just announced he’s running for governor last month.
Although Pritzker’s three other democratic opponents also live in Cook County, he stands alone in receiving tax cuts as a result of an appealed assessment. On the Republican side, Governor Bruce Rauner has not received any property tax breaks either.
According to the assessor’s spokesman Tom Shaer, the policy of dropping assessments on homes that are “vacant and uninhabitable” is supposed to give the homeowner money, encouraging rehab.
In the case of Pritzker, this seems unlikely since it appears the billionaire has done little to repair the interior of the home in the years that he’s owned it. His campaign says he does plan to rehab the mansion ‘someday’, but if that day does come you can be confident in the fact it will wait until after the campaign.
Illinois voters on both sides of the aisle should not take any of this lightly. Although Pritzker didn’t engage in anything illegal to save on his property taxes, he’s certainly gaming the system and finding unconventional ways to help fund his campaign. They should be asking themselves if they can trust somebody that manages their own money in this way to be responsible and transparent with the budget for the state. Will his shady practices when it comes to saving on his personal taxes translate into statewide tax increases and budget gimmicks as the governor of Illinois? Pritzker might believe that spending massive amounts of money on his campaign will help him win the election, but it’s time for voters to speak out and stand against this man before he’s put in charge of the entire economy.
Photo credit: Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune