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Springfield fixer upper? Pritzker digs deep to doll up governor’s digs

The latest Springfield renovations include repairing tile on the first floor, remodeling guest bedrooms and bathrooms and “updating existing plumbing.”

Looking up the entryway to the Illinois Governor’s Mansion. Provided photo.
Looking up the entryway to the Illinois Governor’s Mansion. File photo.

Billionaire Gov. J.B. Pritzker — the richest sitting politician in America — is shelling out another $850,000 from his own pockets to renovate the Illinois Governor’s Mansion in Springfield.

That cranks up the tally of personal funds he has used to cover government expenses — including doubling some salaries and paying for other renovations — to at least $3.45 million, according to a Sun-Times analysis.

The latest Springfield renovations mean the mansion will be closed for tours until Nov. 23, but it is scheduled to reopen in time for the holidays. Renovations include repairing tile on the first floor, remodeling guest bedrooms and bathrooms and “updating existing plumbing.”

An heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, Pritzker has not been shy about using his wealth for campaign or government expenses.

Last year, he broke campaign finance records by giving his own campaign $171.5 million, beating out Meg Whitman’s record of $144 million for her failed 2010 bid for California governor. Pritzker spent about $12.2 million to pay his campaign staff, campaign finance reports show.

Democrat J.B. Pritzker hugs his wife M.K. Pritzker
Democrat J.B. Pritzker hugs his wife M.K. Pritzker and celebrates at an election night rally at the Marriott Marquis Chicago after beating incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Illinois gubernatorial election, Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018. |
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

According to Forbes, Pritzker is the richest sitting politician in the country, worth an estimated $3.2 billion. That surpasses President Donald Trump, who is worth an estimated $3.1 billion.

And Pritzker continued his personal largesse after winning in November.

In January, Pritzker doled out $800,000 to match ticket sales from his inaugural ball, which featured a Maroon 5 concert. That ensured both the Cabrini Green Legal Aid and the Illinois Fairground Foundation each received $800,000. Pritzker never disclosed the amount he paid to throw the lavish party.

And just days before he was sworn in, Pritzker announced he would be using personal money for some governmental salaries.

According to the Illinois Comptroller’s office salary database and already publicly disclosed information from the governor’s office, Pritzker is paying out at least $1.43 million yearly to double the salaries of 20 key staffers, including four deputy governors and his deputy chiefs of staff.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledges the crowd after being sworn in as the state’s 43rd governor in January. File Photo.
Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP

Last month, the governor’s office announced Pritzker spent $275,000 to renovate the governor’s office in the James R. Thompson Center. Pritzker also privately funded renovations at the governor’s downstate residence in Du Quoin, to the tune of $100,000.

The latest personal infusion, the Governor’s Mansion rehab, comes on top of renovations done by Pritzker’s political nemesis.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner launched his own privately funded $15 million renovation of the mansion, spearheading a fundraising drive that began in early 2015. The mansion reopened in July 2018, near the end of the Republican’s tenure.

As for Pritzker’s renovations, those plumbing updates will have one important limitation.

The Democrat came under fire during his campaign over a property tax break he received by disconnecting toilets from his second Gold Coast mansion.

Disabling the commodes helped to lower the property taxes on the vacant home Pritzker owns next-door to his own North Astor Street mansion by $331,432.03.

Rauner made the property tax break a major campaign issue in TV ads, debates and news conferences.

So don’t look for any images of workers hauling out toilets in Springfield.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said “the toilets are not being replaced.”