Pritzker on hot seat over tax refund, while Rauner challenged on pollution
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On one hand, a failure. On the other, a tax cheater. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker slung mud and tried to make it stick in the second gubernatorial debate Wednesday hosted by ABC 7 Chicago and Univision Chicago.
"This is white collar crime," Rauner said of a report linking Pritzker to a "scheme" to defraud Cook County after receiving $331,000 in property tax breaks.
Pritzker, who is repaying the tax refund, swatted away the criticism. "That was an internal memo leaked for political purposes about problems in the assessor's office," he said. "We followed the rules."
Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard said the Pritzkers hired plumbers in 2015 to tear out toilets at a Chicago mansion they owned to get a lower assessment in 2015 and retroactively in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Cook County state's attorney is reviewing the report.
"A robber who returns the money is still a bank robber," Rauner taunted the Hyatt hotel heir.
"Gov. Rauner is trying to distract from his own failures," Pritzker said. "This is a renovation project that was underway; it was halted because it was unclear if the home would be sold or put up for rent. All taxes assessed were paid."
Rauner came under fire about his interest in Sterigenics, a company the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency seeks to close so it can be investigated for emitting a toxic chemical.
Residents have complained about pollution from the Willowbrook facility causing cancer.
Rauner, a Winnetka venture capitalist, said he no longer has a business interest in Sterigenics and has been in close communications with the IEPA.
"You should have acted when you heard there was a cancer-causing gas coming out" of the facility, Pritzker said.
Univision Chicago reporter Erika Maldonado asked Rauner why he vetoed a bill that would prevent landlords from evicting tenants based on their immigration status.
"It unreasonably tied the hands of building owners ... of property owners," Rauner said. "It restricted how they conducted their own business. We do not want to make our state a sanctuary for illegal immigration."
The governor has been criticized by conservatives for signing the Trust Act, which prevents local police from arresting someone based on immigration status.
Asked if Illinois should be a sanctuary state, Pritzker said, "The Trust Act allows us to protect our immigrants in this state who are being harassed ... but only if you enforce it, and Gov. Rauner has not fully enforced it."
Rauner countered, "He (Pritzker) supports making Illinois a sanctuary state."
Two other candidates, Libertarian Grayson "Kash" Jackson of Antioch and state Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview, a Conservative Party candidate, were not invited to debate.
That left the two wealthy businessmen with a chance to exchange jabs unimpeded.
"You are hiding money in the Cayman Islands," Pritzker riposted.
"You're a trust fund baby," Rauner sniped.