Pritzker prologue: Tax plan shift, blind trust talk, transition team tapped
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A day after a decisive win over Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democratic Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker pulled back on a campaign proposal that he’d temporarily raise the state flat income tax rate as he works to enact a progressive income tax structure.
And Pritzker, now the richest politician in America, said his lawyers are working on a “blind trust” of sorts to try to eliminate conflicts of interest.
Pritzker spent his Wednesday morning greeting voters at a South Loop CTA L station. Then he announced a heavy-hitting transition team and fielded phone calls from reporters.
Pritzker ran on a platform that he’d work to enact a progressive income tax in which the wealthy pay a higher rate, but Republicans insisted his plan would actually hurt the middle class. In April, Pritzker admitted his progressive income tax would take “a little time” — about two years — to get passed through the Legislature.
In the interim, he said he’d seek a Massachusetts model, “an artificial progressive income tax, in which we would raise the exemptions for those striving to get to the middle class … and raise the overall rate and then raise the earned income tax credit at the same time. All of which would create a kind of artificial gradual income tax in the state.”
On Wednesday, Pritzker said “no” to whether Illinois residents would see a change in the income tax rate as he awaits a true progressive income tax.
“No, what I see are opportunities for us to bring efficiencies to government,” Pritzker told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re trying to balance the budget here, and we’ve got to look at everything, because truly our budget has not been balanced for many years.”
Pritzker also said he’d work to bring in revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana, sports betting and expanding gaming.
Asked about the change of stance, Pritzker’s campaign on Wednesday said that his idea to raise the income tax was proposed during the primary but did not progress.
As for marijuana, Pritzker said he believes legalization could bring in $700 million in revenue. Pritzker said he believes the discussions will begin soon.
“It’s up to the Legislature when the public hearings will be but I’ve already had conversations over the course of the campaign. We’ll restart those conversations with the leaders in both houses, on both Republican and Democratic sides about our priorities, which will include legalization, ” Pritzker said. “I would guess that there will be discussion about it during this first session.”
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The billionaire’s election earned him a new distinction. Forbes on Tuesday reported that Pritzker — who is worth an estimated $3.2 billion — now beats out President Donald Trump as the richest politician in America. Trump’s net worth is estimated at $3.1 billion.
Asked when he plans to place his investments in a blind trust, Pritzker said, “We’re working on that, and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement.”
“It’s important that we make sure there are no conflicts of interest. And we’re working through that with the lawyers to make sure that it happens,” Pritzker said.
Days before taking office in 2014, Rauner and his wife, Diana, put in place “blind trust procedures” by granting Roundtable Investment Partners exclusive power of attorney, giving the company control of every investment, including the buying and selling of assets. All communications were directed to an adviser and not to the Rauners, and all gains from investments that had Illinois state contracts were to be donated to charity.
Pritzker on Wednesday also announced his transition team — full of heavy-hitters such as former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, Grosvenor Capital Management CEO Michael Sacks and Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan.
Pritzker, too, named his administration’s chief of staff: his campaign manager Anne Caprara.
Lt. Governor-elect Juliana Stratton, the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor, will chair the transition committee. Members include Barbara Bowman, an early childhood education advocate and a former consultant to the U.S. secretary of education during President Barack Obama’s first term; Carrigan; Edgar; Sol Flores, executive director of La Casa Norte, a Humboldt Park social service agency, and a former congressional candidate, and Marty Nesbitt, co-CEO of Chicago-based private equity firm, The Vistria Group.
There are some Obama ties. Nesbitt is head of the Obama Foundation, and Bowman is former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett’s mother.
The transition committee staff includes Caprara, former Hillary Clinton organizer and Pritzker campaign consultant Nikki Budzinski, Pritzker’s political director Sean Rapelyea, former state Comptroller Dan Hynes; state Rep. Christian Mitchell, who is also serving as the state Democratic Party’s interim executive director; Sacks and former Chicago Board of Education board member Jesse Ruiz. Ruiz is the current president of the Chicago Park District.