Federal investigators digging deeper into Pritzker’s $331K property tax break
Pritzker infamously removed toilets from his Gold Coast mansion in what the Cook County inspector general called a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers.
As federal investigators circle closer to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, they have also been working on collecting records related to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Gold Coast mansion property tax break, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Federal prosecutors have been requesting records from the Cook County assessor’s office about a $331,000 tax break the governor got after removing the toilets during remodeling of a mansion he owns next to his own home. Authorities sought the name of every employee who was involved in the tax break, along with associated communications.
The improper tax breaks took place during Joe Berrios’ tenure as assessor. Current Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi has been complying with the feds’ record requests.
In April 2019, it was revealed Pritzker and his wife, M.K., were under federal investigation for the tax breaks. M.K. Pritzker had directed workers to remove the toilets from the home during renovations so the mansion would be deemed uninhabitable, resulting in a property tax break. After an inspection was complete, she had them reinstall one toilet in J.B.’s “hangout/meeting area.” J.B. Pritzker said he would pay the taxes when the tax dodge was revealed during his campaign for governor, but that has not cooled the interest of investigators.
A 2018 Cook County Inspector General report called Pritzker’s actions a “scheme to defraud.”
Pritzker on July 17 called on Madigan to resign if the bribery allegations involving him are true, and went on to say: “When I think about the possibility of people committing these kinds of wrongdoings, I think people who are in public service need to live up to the integrity of the job they were asked to do.”
The Pritzkers hired contractor Bulley & Andrews during the mansion’s renovation. In May, it was revealed the same company that removed Pritzker’s toilets was also cashing in on federal contracts while still working for the governor.
U.S. Department of Defense records show Bulley & Andrews was awarded nearly $9 million through a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract to convert the old Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park into a COVID-19 care facility. The Corps last worked with the firm in 1944.
Bulley & Andrews also worked as subcontractors on a separate Corps project to reopen Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Both jobs were to increase the state’s hospital capacity for COVID-19 cases expected to overwhelm the health care system, but neither hospital site has been needed and the Corps has been criticized for the lack of transparency in awarding $1.7 billion in contracts nationally.
Then the contractor was hired for $2.5 million to build a new home and outbuildings at Pritzker’s Kenosha County, Wisconsin, horse farm. According to an investigation by WFLD-TV, more than 20 construction workers, mostly from Illinois, were working on the project despite the governor’s stay-at-home order and the fact he has discouraged travel to other states, specifically Wisconsin, fearing it could increase the spread of the virus in Illinois.
While Pritzker is embroiled in a federal investigation of tax fraud, he’s asking the rest of Illinois’ taxpayers to support his plan to raise income taxes for the third time in a decade. Pritzker so far has put $56.5 million of his own money into a campaign to remove the state’s flat income tax protection from the Illinois Constitution to allow for a progressive income tax.
If voters approve Pritzker’s amendment Nov. 3, Illinoisans could find themselves paying more taxes in six different ways. Seniors should be especially concerned with Pritzker’s plan. While retirement income is currently exempt from the state income tax, Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs confirmed in June the governor’s “fair tax” amendment would open the door for a retirement income tax.