J.B. Pritzker, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor, shares the label of wealthy Chicago businessman with incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. But Pritzker said he is much different from Rauner.
During a campaign stop in Macomb, Pritzker said he disagrees with the governor's approach. He said Rauner likes to run government as if it is a business. Pritzker said the goal of business is to seek a profit, but the goal of government is to take care of its people.
“Bruce Rauner believes that every dollar out the door is an expense in government. I believe you can make investments that have a real payoff for the state and for working families, including investing in higher education, including investing in early education,” Pritzker said. “Those are investments for the future, not expenses.”
Pritzker said that those types of investments plus additional spending on infrastructure will help grow the state and the economy.
Pritzker said it’s okay to borrow money for infrastructure improvements because those are investments.
He also wants to change the state’s constitution to allow for a graduated income tax to generate more revenue. Illinois is one of only a handful of states still using a flat income tax.
Two year budget impasse:
Illinois’ two-year budget impasse was the longest stalemate in the nation’s history. Lawmakers finally put an end to it this summer when they passed a budget deal by overriding Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of the bill.
Pritzker accused Rauner of trying to drive the state into insolvency. “He believes we will all give up on our principles about paying for our pensions, about paying for our schools, about expanding healthcare in the state. Give up on our principles because we are afraid of insolvency,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker told Tri States Public Radio he is concerned, “...if people begin to believe that defunding these things is the right way to balance a budget because it is not.”
Pritzker said balancing a budget takes three things: revenue, expenses, and growth.
Pritzker is critical of how little money the state currently contributes toward K-12 public schools. Illinois ranks last in the nation for the share of education funding that comes from the state, forcing many districts to rely heavily on property tax revenues.
“That’s why our property taxes are so high and other states, not so much. We need to fix that and we need to fix that now,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker’s other primary education priorities include providing universal preschool to ensure all Illinois students are ready for kindergarten.
As for higher education, Pritzker called for stabilizing universities and then investing in them. He said losing students to out of state schools hurts the economy.
“Our economic future is very much tied to when these kids graduate, [having them] stay in Illinois either building businesses or going into a profession and staying here and building the future economy of our state. Those are our kids and secondly, those are our best economic prospects,” Pritzker said.
During his campaign stop in Macomb, Pritzker said he also wants to raise the minimum wage and create more jobs by investing in small businesses. He said small business owners need to have more access to capital, technical assistance, and mentoring programs in order to grow.
Pritzker is one of several Democrats running for the party’s nomination for governor. He did not discuss the other Democratic candidates during his speech, instead choosing to focus primarily on Governor Rauner.
Pritzker did note that he is the only candidate self-financing his campaign. Pritzker said he is not asking for financial support from anyone in order to remain independent and not be beholden to anyone. Pritzker is a billionaire businessman. He owns Pritzker Venture Capital Group, which is an investment firm, and is an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune.