Democratic primary front-runner J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday fired back at accusations from Gov. Bruce Rauner that the candidate has avoided paying taxes on his $3 billion fortune by sheltering funds in offshore accounts.
“It’s laughable that Bruce Rauner is complaining about my taxes,” Pritzker said after a Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ forum at the historic Second Presbyterian Church on the South Side. “I released way more information than Bruce Rauner has, and it’s important to recognize that unlike Bruce Rauner, who, yeah, he paid taxes, but you know how he made his money? By cutting jobs. By buying companies and firing people.”
“So if he wants to have this battle, let’s have at it: Where I’m a job creator, he’s a job destroyer,” Pritzker said.
Earlier in the day, Rauner doubled down on his first direct attack against Pritzker on Tuesday, when he suggested that Pritzker’s reported $16 million income from last year indicated the billionaire was either a lousy investor or a tax dodger.
“I think there’s a massive tax avoidance scheme and you can just see by what we do know,” Rauner said Wednesday. “We know that Pritzker, in order to save some real estate taxes in Chicago, ripped toilets out of a building so he could claim that it’s worthless,” he said, referring to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that found Pritzker saved $230,000 in property tax breaks last year by leaving his Gold Coast mansion in disrepair.
“So with that kind of behavior, you can only imagine what he would do to hide taxes or avoid taxes on hundreds of millions or maybe billions of dollars,” Rauner said.
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On Tuesday, Pritzker’s campaign said the trusts involve “other people, businesses, etc and it would be improper to reveal this info because he is running for governor.”
“Any trusts for my benefit that are offshore, I have received no distributions from, and those trusts are only providing charitable contributions,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “That’s all that they do.”
Pritzker’s wealth did not come up at Wednesday’s debate, hosted by Equality Illinois, where the top five Democratic governor hopefuls discussed issues facing the LGBTQ community.
As in previous forums, Pritzker mostly found common ground with businessman Chris Kennedy and the other candidates on a number of issues, including criminal justice reform, social services expansion, and greater protection for undocumented immigrants.
“The fact is we underfund mental health, and almost no community needs more mental health services than the LGBT community because of the enormous stress that they’re subjected to,” Kennedy said.
State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, touted the passage of a bill he sponsored that banned conversion therapy, and said he would push for an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing equal rights for LGBTQ people.
Madison County schools Supt. Bob Daiber said he prioritized equal rights for transgender students in his downstate district, while anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman recounted supporting young transgender women through his organization CeaseFire, now known as Cure Violence.
Earlier in the day, Kennedy and Pritzker announced a schedule of six more debates before the March primary.
Contributing: Tina Sfondeles