Griffin’s Departure

Illinoisans generally and Gov. Pritzker in particular should be relieved that the issue on which JB Pritzker ran for governor, a graduated income tax for Illinois, was rejected at the polls by Illinoisans when it was brought before them in 2020 now that Ken Griffin is leaving Illinois for Florida. One of the aspects of a graduated personal income tax rarely mentioned is that it renders the states that have them more dependent on wealthy individuals for revenue rather than less and Ken Griffin is the wealthiest man in Illinois, by all reckonings an order of magnitude richer than our billionaire governor. The 1% of total revenue he represents will be sorely missed.

The editors of the Chicago Tribune via Yahoo have their own reactions to his departure:

To put it mildly, Griffin believes that the state’s leadership, especially Gov. J.B. Pritzker, is inattentive to these issues which Griffin sees as raging so far out of control as to undermine the city he loves.

That’s why Griffin has spent a lot of money trying to defeat Pritzker by supporting the candidacy of Richard Irvin in the Republican primary for governor. How well that investment worked out will be revealed Tuesday night, but we suspect Irvin has not been all that Griffin, a very sophisticated political player, had hoped.

Whomever the Republican nominee ends up being will have a tough fight this November against Pritzker, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent actions, a boon to Pritzker’s electoral chances, and we’ll wager Griffin is not so enthused about candidate Darren Bailey, who has not expressed much interest in the concerns of secular, corporate Chicago.

Does Griffin’s exit matter? On one level, he is just one individual pursuing his best interests that he now believes lie outside of the state. He is just one of nearly 13 million Illinoisans, all with the right to expect attention and care from their elected leaders.

Griffin, of course, will be just fine in Florida. And Citadel will retain some employees here. All of that is true. And as some defensive political leaders have rushed to say, none of this is a big surprise. Griffin didn’t need to leak any draft decision to foreshadow what he intend to do. It came out of his own mouth. Loud and clear.

But while Griffin’s ideological foes have been saying various versions of “don’t let the door hit you …,” we don’t share that reaction. The violent crime problem is real and there is no question that Griffin’s drawing of attention to the international perception of a decaying city has been valuable, as has his tacit warning to Pritzker to not let any national presidential ambitions and the boxes that must be checked in feasance to the constituencies of Democratic Party get in the way of his sworn duty to the people of Illinois, including the business community. A counter argument coming from a credible source is healthy for this state. Griffin would surely have hated running for governor, but he’d have been a far better candidate than anyone on the current Republican slate.

And the state won’t just miss the tax receipts. Griffin has been a notable philanthropist in Illinois, especially in Chicago, funding a variety of causes, institutions and urban amenities, especially during the Rahm Emanuel era. His total personal giving exceeds $600 million; the other employees at Citadel have given a whole lot more. The University of Chicago Crime Lab, the Shedd Aquarium and Museum of Science and Industry aren’t glad Griffin’s going.

When you combine the departures of Boeing, Caterpillar, and Citadel, all within a matter of weeks and even when partially offset by Kellogg’s announced relocation to Illinois, it does not suggest a healthy state.

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