Shaw Media sent questionnaires to statewide and Congressional candidates throughout the area ahead of the fall election.
Those questionnaires from each candidate who responded, as well as video of candidate interviews with our Editorial Board, are featured on our Election Central website to help readers make informed decisions when they cast their votes.
Name: JB Pritzker
Town of residence: Chicago
Office sought: Governor
1. Without action, Illinois' obligations to its five pension funds are expected to top $10 billion by the 2023 fiscal year. What is your plan to help the state with this millstone of debt?
Pensions are a promise to teachers, firefighters, nurses and other hard-working men and women, and the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the state must fund these pensions. Bruce Rauner has spent the last four years trying to break that promise. He has sought to cut pensions and destroy unions instead of bringing people together to grow our economy, pass a balanced budget, and work to solve this problem. Bruce Rauner has also proposed letting Illinois declare bankruptcy, which would destroy the state’s credit rating, cost taxpayers billions in higher interest payments, and undermined the very foundation of our economy. Throughout his term in office, he has been fighting against working families. He vetoed a minimum wage increase, closed small business development centers, and halted state infrastructure projects, putting thousands of people out of work.
There are a number of plans that have been discussed and debated about the future of our pension system. One proposed plan would step up our pension payments now, allowing the state to level out its future obligations so that we can more easily manage our future budgets. I also pledge that the state will never again skip pension payments. Unlike Bruce Rauner, I will honor the promises that have been made to the working men and women in Illinois and work with the legislature to address the pension issue.
2. What will you do as governor to reduce the property tax burden on homeowners?
Bruce Rauner’s budget would’ve shifted over $1 billion in pension payments to local governments, forcing property taxes to skyrocket. I favor lowering property taxes. Bruce Rauner’s property tax freeze idea would hurt public schools at a time when they need help. We need to fund schools by passing a fair income tax so we can pay for public schools and reduce our dependency on local property taxes.
I also believe the property tax assessment system as a whole is flawed. When 50,000 people in Cook County alone appeal their property assessments every year and 64% of those appeals are successful, it is clear assessments are too often inaccurate. We need to take a holistic approach to ensure that counties are using the latest technology, the most up to date formulas, and best practices to ensure accuracy.
3. Income taxes on wage earners increased 32 percent in 2017. What will be the future of the income tax under your administration?
I want to lower income taxes for the vast majority of people in this state. Illinois needs to replace its regressive flat income tax with a fair income tax, the same type of fair tax that most states and the U.S. government have. It will help us balance the budget and improve funding for our education system. I believe that people like me and Bruce Rauner should pay a higher rate than teachers, firefighters, nurses and childcare workers. I will negotiate rates in a bipartisan fashion with the legislature, where we prioritize that those with higher incomes pay a higher rate than those in the middle class. We will also work to lower income taxes on the middle class and those striving to get there, and raise the state’s share of education funding. A fair income tax will also help us to lower local property taxes by alleviating the dependency on the regressive property tax system as the predominant source of school funding.
4. Should marijuana be legalized for recreational use in Illinois? If so, how would you do it and why? If not, why not?
I support legalizing and taxing the recreational use of marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state. I will work with community stakeholders and policy makers to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, reduce mass incarceration, and reinvest in Illinois communities. I will put in place a strong regulatory system and a framework to license businesses to sell marijuana to consumers for recreational use, placing an emphasis on intentionally including black and brown entrepreneurs in the planning and licensing of new marijuana businesses. New jobs and businesses must be created in the communities that have experienced the most disinvestment under Bruce Rauner. It is also important to learn lessons from other states that have already legalized marijuana.
5. Illinois' higher education spending per student declined 37 percent from 2008 to 2017, and many college-bound students are choosing out-of-state schools because they offer more competitive tuition. What can be done to combat this problem?
For Illinois to grow its globally competitive workforce, we need a world-class education system. Bruce Rauner proposed a 30% cut to higher education, and during his term in office, college has become less affordable, students have increasingly left our state, and too little is being done to train our workforce. It will take colleges and universities years to overcome the reputational damage Bruce Rauner caused with his 736-day budget crisis. Nonetheless, our state has tremendous academic talent, globally recognized universities, and businesses seeking talented graduates.
I understand that colleges and universities are hubs of economic growth, workforce training, and innovation. As governor, I’ll lead the effort to build a student-centered system of higher education that is more affordable, attractive to students nationally and globally, and aligned with the jobs of tomorrow. I will make college more affordable by increasing financial aid and restoring funding for colleges and universities to pre-Rauner levels. I will keep more of our students in state by promoting our public colleges and universities and making sure that community college credits transfer to public universities. Finally, I will increase economic opportunities by expanding career and technical education and encouraging more entrepreneurship and innovation on campuses across the state.
There is enormous potential for Illinois’ higher education to thrive, but to reverse the outmigration of college students from Illinois, it will take renewed leadership, a commitment to nurture and support education from cradle to career, and a plan like the one I proposed. Juliana and I are committed to this all-important mission.
6. Please explain your position on term limits for lawmakers. If you support term limits, how will you work to implement them?
I do not support term limits for elected officials across the state. But as governor, I would sign legislation instituting term limits for legislative leadership positions, and I support ending the gerrymandering of districts to encourage more competitive elections.
7. Do you support putting the drawing of state legislative and congressional districts in the hands of an independent body rather than a partisan political group? How can this be achieved in Illinois?
We should amend the constitution to create an independent commission to draw legislative maps, and I have supported this effort for years. In the meantime, I would urge Democrats and Republicans to agree to an independent commission to handle creating a new legislative map. That designated body should reflect the gender, racial, and geographic diversity of the state and look to preserve the Voting Rights Act decisions to help ensure that racial and language minorities are fully represented in the electoral process.
8. What will your administration do to improve the business climate and job creation in areas outside the city of Chicago?
As governor, I will prioritize job creation throughout Illinois. It is critical that we build up our state and provide people with job opportunities after Bruce Rauner’s budget impasse and record of instability and uncertainty. I have a five-point job creation plan that focuses on attracting and building up small businesses, building infrastructure, including statewide high-speed broadband internet connectivity, investing in higher education, nurturing our agricultural economy, and jumpstarting manufacturing.
In addition to attracting larger companies, Illinois must invest in the ecosystem for small businesses and start-ups that are the backbone of our economy and employ millions of people. Bruce Rauner decimated the network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the state. I will prioritize revitalization of small businesses throughout the state by expanding access to capital, rebuilding SBDCs, and creating and enhancing new business incubators and accelerators.
Beyond that, one of my most important goals as the next governor of Illinois will be to create jobs and restore economic stability and vibrancy to the hardest hit communities in our state. If we improve the prospects for economic prosperity of a community, we can create greater stability for our children and families and reduce the potential for violence. I believe we can and must accomplish this goal, especially for Illinois’ black and brown communities. I have an economic inclusion plan that will expand opportunities for minority business owners to secure state contracts, establish M/WBE-focused accelerators across the state, and create a Cannabis Equity Program that promotes black and brown entrepreneurs in the ownership and licensing of new marijuana dispensaries. It will also increase access to new loan programs and assist entrepreneurs with online lending. This plan will help to reverse the trend of disinvestment and outward migration while restoring hope and opportunity for the communities of color that need it most.
9. How will your administration work to support rural residents and the agribusiness community?
I understand that the agriculture industry is vital to the success of Illinois’ economy, and there is enormous opportunity for industry growth if we make the right decisions. Farmers and people in agribusiness should know that government will be a stable partner in helping grow the economy, educating and training a quality workforce, and investing in infrastructure, but Bruce Rauner failed at all of these things and dismantled the state’s commitment to agriculture. In his first three years in office, Bruce Rauner’s budget proposals severely reduced or zeroed out funding for agriculture education and vocational training, 4H, county fairs, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts. This kind of uncertainty, along with the trade wars that Donald Trump is waging, kills business and wreaks havoc.
As governor, I will work to create jobs and build up our state’s agriculture industry. I will a partner, advocate, and cheerleader for farmers. I will help expand markets abroad by leading agriculture trade missions so they can grow your customer base. I will fund agriculture education, promote agriculture startup companies at our universities, and rebuild the infrastructure that farmers rely on to get their products from farm to market. Agriculture should not be a partisan issue – it is critical to communities and businesses across our state.
10. Illinois has many more units of local government than any other state. Is local government consolidation be a priority for you? If so, how will your administration help accomplish this goal?
Illinois has the most units of local government in the country. As a businessman, I know that’s highly inefficient. Efforts to consolidate should be locally driven and should not reduce services to local residents.