Name: J.B. Pritzker
Office seeking: Governor
City of residence: Chicago
Campaign website: www.jbpritzker.com
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? The progressive values that I’ve fought for my entire life are under assault by Donald Trump and his partner in Springfield, Bruce Rauner. Illinois’ working families need a leader in Springfield who will fight to expand healthcare, invest in public quality education, and create jobs throughout our state. Instead, Bruce Rauner has created crisis after crisis while failing to stand up to Donald Trump and his bigoted agenda. I’ve spent my life getting big things done for Illinois families and communities in both the public and private sectors. For over 20 years, I’ve been a national advocate for early childhood education, including organizing President Obama’s White House Summit on Early Childhood Education in 2014 and expanded federal school breakfast grants to over 200,000 Illinois children in low-income school districts. Five years ago, I founded 1871, a non-profit startup business incubator, which has helped create over 7,000 new jobs in Illinois and has helped make Chicago one of the top technology startup hubs in the world. And as governor, I’m committed to bringing people together to move our state forward. I have put forward real plans for improving Illinois’ economic climate, including a five-point plan to create jobs throughout the state, a plan to lower healthcare costs for small businesses, and a plan to invest in education across the board, including in Cahokia High School, where I saw firsthand the need to invest in public education during a tour. My job creation plan includes a focus on attracting and building up small businesses, building infrastructure, such as statewide high-speed broadband internet connectivity, investing in higher education, nurturing greater international trade for our agriculture economy, and jumpstarting manufacturing. It’s especially important that we help communities across the state that have suffered years of disinvestment by giving small business owners and new entrepreneurs the attention and resources they need to thrive, like access to capital, training, and mentorship. As the only candidate in this race who has created thousands of new jobs, I have well-placed faith in Illinoisans’ creativity and entrepreneurial drive as the best creator of new jobs for Illinois. We need to think big, innovate, and come together to get things done in our state again, and I believe I have the record of accomplishments, vision, and leadership that Illinois needs.
What is the most important issue facing the state? How would you approach it? The most important issue facing Illinois is the failure to address the state’s poor fiscal condition, which has been exacerbated under Bruce Rauner’s manufactured two-year budget crisis. It’s the constitutional obligation of the governor to propose a balanced budget to the legislature, but in four years, Bruce Rauner hasn’t met that obligation even once. Rauner’s crisis blocked critical investments in education, human services, and economic development, especially in our most economically challenged communities. As a result, agencies were shuttered, jobs were destroyed, college students left the state, and lives were threatened or lost. It also brought Illinois to the brink of financial collapse, dragging the state to near junk bond status and tripling our bill backlog. To address these challenges, I’ll work with the legislature and stakeholders to pass a balanced, forward thinking budget that prioritizes job creation, expanding healthcare coverage, and quality, equitable public education so that every Illinois family has the tools they need to build better lives.
The state’s income tax was increased to 4.95 percent in 2017. Would you try to roll it back? Why or why not? And if so, how would you roll it back? Illinois should stop the unfair practice of balancing the budget on the backs of working families who can least afford it. A progressive income tax will allow us to modernize and reform our tax code to make sure people who make more pay a higher rate, and people who make less pay a lower rate. This is a central issue in my campaign and will be a top priority when I’m governor. By replacing the regressive flat income tax with a progressive income tax, we can improve funding for schools that have been left behind, lower our regressive property tax rates, and protect the middle class and those striving to get there. The best way to increase state revenue is to grow jobs and economic activity, which is an important focus of my campaign and something I have done in my own business and in my active effort to build up the startup ecosystem in Illinois. As we seek to balance revenue and expenditures of the state’s budget, growth is an important component that seems too often overlooked. As the only candidate who has created thousands of jobs in Illinois, I have put forward a real plan for job creation. Illinois needs a governor who knows how to create jobs and who will focus on enhancing the private sector beyond just Cook County.
Illinois is still running a deficit budget. How should it be balanced?If cuts should be made, what programming cuts should be considered? It’s the constitutional obligation of the governor to propose a balanced budget to the legislature. In four years, Bruce Rauner hasn’t met that obligation even once. To address the state’s fiscal challenges, I will propose a forward-thinking balanced budget that prioritizes job creation, expanded healthcare coverage, and quality, equitable public education. I will work with the legislature and stakeholders to get it passed. If I receive an unbalanced budget from the legislature as governor, I will bring legislators to the table so we can make sure we’re prioritizing jobs, education, and healthcare while working to reduce the tax burden on middle income taxpayers and those striving to reach the middle class. Unlike Bruce Rauner, I won’t give up before a budget is agreed to and then claim that “I’m not in charge.” Unlike our current governor, I will not shirk my constitutional obligation to propose a balanced budget every year. In addition to meeting the annual budgeting requirement, we need to engage in multi-year budget forecasting with a focus on rebuilding our higher education and social service infrastructure that was decimated during Bruce Rauner’s two-year budget crisis. By taking a multi-year approach to budgeting, we can project changes in economic growth and revenue that will help us plan our expenditures more thoughtfully. Unlike Bruce Rauner who cost us $1 billion in fees and interest for late payments because he refused to propose a balanced budget, I will work with lawmakers to propose and pass a balanced budget. We also need to make investments in programs that will save our state money, such as early childhood education and preventative healthcare, but unfortunately this governor sees these as expenses instead of investments. To pay for important investments, reduce the tax load carried by low and middle-income people, and reduce our reliance on local property taxes to fund education, I will reform our tax system to make it less regressive. I have proposed amending the constitution to create a progressive income tax for Illinois so we can invest in moving Illinois forward while lowering regressive property taxes and protecting the middle class from further tax increases. We can also add revenue by legalizing and taxing the recreational use of marijuana, which is estimated to help generate as much as $700 million a year for the state.
Campaign funding has been an issue in the last few months. Should there be changes in the state’s campaign finance rules? Why or why not? If so, what changes would you want to see? We need comprehensive campaign finance reform in Illinois, and as governor, I will work with stakeholders to change the system and put limits in place. We must also overturn Citizens United at the federal level.