Illinois Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker celebrated the departure of two GOP billionaires and one of the state’s biggest businesses in remarks delivered last weekend to a group of Democrats gathered in the Sunshine State.
Pritzker opened remarks at a Florida Democratic Party event by calling Ken Griffin, the CEO of hedge fund Citadel, a "spoiled rich kid" and arguing that Griffin's decision to relocate his company to Florida stemmed from disappointment over his preferred gubernatorial candidate's loss last month in the Republican primary. "Griffin announced he was taking his toys and leaving Illinois," Pritzker told the Tampa Bay crowd. "Again, really sorry about that."
Griffin, who was not long ago the richest man in Illinois, cited Florida’s lower crime rate and more hospitable business environment as reasons for the move, which cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in annual income tax revenue. A spokesman for Citadel said that the hedge fund’s employees paid more than $1 billion in taxes to Illinois over the past decade.
While his remarks drew attention from the mainstream press, Pritzker's comments about Griffin and another billionaire, former Illinois Republican governor Bruce Rauner, were largely overlooked.
It’s a curious political argument from Pritzker, a governor facing reelection in November and who has seen three major companies announce plans to decamp from Illinois in the past two months: Caterpillar, Boeing, and Griffin’s Citadel. The remarks were an obvious attempt to position Pritzker as an alternative to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), so his decision to highlight the businessmen who have chosen to leave Illinois is puzzling.
Pritzker mocked Rauner, who moved to Florida in 2018. Rauner, whose net worth is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, paid $50 million in state income taxes in 2016 alone. "He’s your problem now," Pritzker said. "Sorry about that."
Citadel was the third major Illinois employer that recently announced its intention to leave the state. In May, Boeing announced it was moving its headquarters to Virginia from Chicago. The following month, Caterpillar, which has been headquartered in Illinois for nearly 100 years, said it would move 230 jobs in the state to Texas.
Several leaders in the Illinois business community cite rising crime in Chicago as a primary reason why they consider leaving the state. Murders in Chicago rose by 60 percent in 2021 compared to the previous two years. Shootings were up 66 percent and car theft was up 19 percent during the same time period.
A spokeswoman for Pritzker did not respond to a request for comment about whether he celebrates the departure of all billionaires from Illinois, or just Republican business leaders.
Democrats who attended Pritzker’s speech included Rep. Val Demings (D., Fla.), who is now running statewide for Senate. Demings did not respond to a request for comment about whether she agrees with Pritzker’s assessment of Griffin.
Pritzker faces reelection in November against Republican Darren Bailey and is rumored to have presidential aspirations.