SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Governor J.B. Pritzker’s senior adviser and former campaign consultant Nikki Budzinksi is leaving the administration at the end of the month.
“I love the Governor,” Budzinski said in a phone call Wednesday morning, “but it was just time.”
Budzinski’s role was not always clearly defined within the administration. As senior adviser, she floated between four deputy governors and helped as a sort of utility player to steer big pieces of legislation through the statehouse in the early days of the first year. Her chief accomplishment was negotiating with labor leaders and legislators to coordinate the passage of the $15 minimum wage hike, and later to implement a massive broadband expansion which promises to deliver faster internet speeds downstate.
She said Pritzker supports her next move, and she will have fond memories of her time in his inner circle. “It really feels like we packed four years into one,” she said.
“Nikki is widely beloved downstate, and is a close ally and friend,” Governor Pritzker said in an emailed statement. “She also is the first person who supported me, helped me to decide whether to run for governor and helped put together my campaign from our earliest days. As senior adviser, she was a valued voice in the administration, and while she will be missed, I know that she will succeed in this next professional chapter.”
Budzinksi, who has deep career roots in the national labor movement, intends to branch out and open a new political consulting firm called Budzinski and Partners, LLC. The Peoria native will remain in Illinois, while her assistant Rachel Corcoran will join her new venture from an outpost in Washington, D.C. She said she hopes to use her new firm to help elect women to public office, and will “definitely not” be taking on any lobbying clients for at least one year after she departs the administration.
During her 13-month stint with the state, Budzinksi made an annual salary of $278,000, earning equal $139,000 portions from the state and from Governor Pritzker’s own pockets. The governor established an LLC to subsidize the income of his top aides when he took office last year. Pritzker’s campaign paid Budzinksi an annual salary of $195,000 before she accepted a state job.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a statement from Governor Pritzker.