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J.B. Pritzker

Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker speaks during a debate against Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in Quincy on Oct. 11. Now Gov.-elect, Pritzker says he will not take the annual salary that comes with the job.

Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire who pumped a record $171.5 million of his personal fortune into his winning campaign for Illinois governor, will forgo his state salary, his staff said.

Considering state government's annual spending is nearly $38.5 billion, the $177,412 annual salary Illinois pays its governors is a drop in the bucket. But the Hyatt hotel heir takes office next year facing steep financial challenges — the state's sitting on at least $7.5 billion in unpaid bills — and refusing a salary sends a message to lawmakers and voters as he starts addressing them.

Pritzker's staff didn't make him available to comment.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a wealthy former private equity investor from Winnetka, also did not take his state salary during his lone term.

To forgo their salary, governors just fill out paperwork through the state comptroller's office, which is in charge of the state's checkbook.

"That's the way it works with Gov. Rauner, he just doesn't get a check," said Jamey Dunn, a spokeswoman for the comptroller's office.

Like Rauner, Pritzker — who hails from Chicago — says he'll be moving into the Governor's Mansion in Springfield when he's sworn in Jan. 14.

Governors from the big city like to have a rebuttal to the Chicago governor vs. Downstate governor debate, which can be defined by where the state's chief executive calls home.

Now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's decision not to live in the mansion rankled taxpayers who expected their governor to live in the house they pay around $500,000 a year to keep open.

He was criticized for racking up thousands of dollars in one-day trips between Chicago, where he lived on the Northwest Side, and the state capital city. His successor, Pat Quinn, who like Blagojevich called Chicago home, vowed to live in the mansion, but a year into his first term, records showed he stayed there only sporadically, the Tribune reported.

Rauner and wife Diana Rauner also lived in the mansion and oversaw fundraising for what would become a $15 million remodeling of the residence. They moved out temporarily to make way for construction crews.

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