Toilet tax break plunges Pritzker into spin mode
From insisting he did nothing wrong to deflecting the conversation to talk about veterans, Democratic candidate for governor, J.B. Pritzker, recently tried to spin reporters' questions about tax breaks he received after tearing out toilets in a mansion he owns.
The gubernatorial candidate is accused of purposefully defrauding taxpayers by removing toilets so that the home would be classified as “uninhabitable,” saving Pritzker $330,000 in tax breaks, according to a watchdog report.
The interview was brief.
Media outlets expressed dissatisfaction with Pritzker’s answers, with Capital Fax, calling the encounter “brutal.” Reporters asked Pritzker about the removed toilets, but the Hyatt Hotel owner repeatedly stated that he was “not a real estate lawyer” and assured the crowd that “we followed the rules.”
The incident is threatening to overshadow Pritzker’s campaign.
“What are the rules? What are the rules?” a reporter asked.
“I can’t relay them to you, I’m not a real estate lawyer,” Pritzker responded.
Pritzker then tried to redirect the conversation and began speaking about the “issues.”
Reporters, however, continued to press the issue.
“You’re deflecting. The question is about your home,” a reporter said.
“Negligence is causing, negligence is causing the deaths of our veterans. That is what we're here to talk about,” Pritzker responded.
Illinois residents face some of the highest taxes in the country. Pritzker is running on a campaign to introduce an additional tax. During the incident, reporters dogged Pritzker about the toilet tax break. The following exchange occurred:
Question: Do you wish that you had not asked for that property tax break?
Pritzker: The veterans in Illinois, the veterans in Illinois, their lives are at stake when you have an administration that has ignored them, that has mistreated them, that does not understand how to care for them.
Question: Why does a billionaire need to rip out toilets to save $330,000?
Pritzker: Well, that was not obviously what happened. We renovated the home, renovated the home, I stopped that renovation, we restarted it, we paid the taxes that were assessed on that property.
Question: You took action to make the house look like it wasn’t worth as much, so you could take a cut, correct?
Pritzker: No. No.
Question: Then what was it? Then explain what it was?
Pritzker: A renovation project.
Campaign: Final question, last question.
Question: Who rips out five toilets?
Pritzker: When you’re renovating, and literally gutting, when you’re renovating a home…look, let me remind all of you that this gradual situation that occurred at the Quincy veterans home…
Question: Wait a second, we’re talking about the house. Why are you…
Pritzker: I’ve said all along, I said this last night, that we followed the rules. And I’m telling you now what’s important to recognize is that this was a renovation project that literally didn’t know, and the reason it was halted was because as we said, we didn’t know whether the home would be sold, didn’t know whether the home would be rented out, the project was restarted.
Pritzker is worth an estimated $3.2 billion.