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One billionaire’s ‘Fair Tax’ is another’s ‘catastrophic constitutional amendment’ — Griffin-Pritzker checkbook rumble rages on

Ken Griffin’s $26,750,000 donation raises the total Illinois’ richest man has contributed to the anti-tax committee to $46,750,000. But he still lags behind Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s largesse on the other side of the issue.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, in July; Hedge fund mogul Ken Griffin, right, in 2018.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, left, in July; Hedge fund mogul Ken Griffin, right, in 2018.
Pat Nabong, Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Billionaire Ken Griffin dug into his deep pockets again, donating nearly $27 million to stop Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax.

Griffin’s $26,750,000 donation on Wednesday raises the total amount Illinois’ richest man has contributed to the anti-tax committee to $46,750,000. The hedge fund manager donated $20 million last month.

But Griffin still lags behind Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s largesse on the other side of the issue.

The billionaire governor has personally dropped $56.5 million of his fortune into the “Vote Yes for Fairness” committee, which is focused on passing Pritzker’s pet ballot initiative.

Griffin said in a statement “every citizen has a right to the truth about what Governor Pritzker and [state House Speaker] Mike Madigan’s tax increase will mean for our state: the continued exodus of families and businesses, loss of jobs and inevitably higher taxes on everyone.

Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin is shown in April 2018 discussing his $10 million donation to reduce gun violence in the city.
Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin is shown in April 2018 discussing his $10 million donation to reduce gun violence in the city.
Sun-Times file

“Well informed voters are increasingly speaking out against this tax hike, and I am committed to ensuring each of us has the facts to make a thoughtful decision about this catastrophic constitutional amendment,” Griffin said.

Quentin Fulks, who chairs the committee Pritzker donates to, said in a statement Griffin is “growing increasingly desperate to ensure he can keep the special deal he gets under our current tax system that allows him to pay the same tax rate as our essential workers.

“Mr. Griffin and his fellow opponents have already made clear they want to raise taxes on working families and retirees rather than pay their fair share,” Fulks said. “Mr. Griffin’s now spent more than he would have paid additionally last year under the Fair Tax in an attempt to defeat it.

“This may be nothing more than a calculation to him, but the future of our state is at stake. We remain committed to passing the Fair Tax in this election and giving a tax cut to 97% of Illinoisans.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveils his graduated income tax plan during a news conference in 2019.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveils his graduated income tax plan during a news conference in 2019.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register file

Griffin, the founder and CEO of hedge fund Citadel, is worth an estimated $12.1 billion, according to Forbes’ latest ranking of the world’s billionaires.

That makes him the state’s richest man. Pritzker ranks sixth in the state with a fortune estimated at $3.4 billion from his Hyatt Hotels holdings and a private equity firm he once ran.

Passing what Pritzker dubs the “Fair Tax” has been one of the Democratic governor’s top priorities since he took office last year.

While opponents argue the proposal opens the door for further tax hikes down the road to pay off the state’s massive debts, Pritzker portrays it as a way to get the rich — including himself — to pay their fair share.

Under the proposal, incomes between $250,000 and $500,000 would be taxed 7.75%. It would maintain the current tax rate of 4.95% on incomes between $100,000 and $250,000. Income from $500,000 to $1 million would be taxed 7.85%, while income over $1 million would be taxed 7.99%. For those earning incomes of $100,000 or less, the rate would dip down to 4.9%.

Voters are not deciding on the rates when they cast their ballot in November, however.

Should voters approve the constitutional amendment, the new tax rates would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.