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Pritzker says focus on working families makes him best choice for governor

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Wednesday, March 14, 2018  |  Article  |  MARILYN HALSTEAD

Candidates--Statewide (12) , Governor (44)
CARBONDALE — JB Pritzker says he is the only candidate for Illinois governor who is already engaged in public service and is focused on working families.

Some of his service includes expanding preschool education and school breakfast programs, creating 1871 (a small business incubator in Chicago), serving on the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and building the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

“The state needs somebody who knows how to get things done,” Pritzker said.

He favors campaign finance reform.

“First, we need to do away with Citizens United. We need to put in campaign finance reform,” Pritzker said.

Citizens United is a 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that said the first amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit and for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

“I’ve tried to put in a campaign that isn’t just about winning the governor’s race, but also about winning up and down the ticket,” Pritzker said.

He believes the people of the Illinois care about “kitchen table” issues such as healthcare, jobs, education and violence. He said Gov. Bruce Rauner is not serious about those issues, and did not sign a bill to require gun shops to be licensed.

“I will sign a gun dealer licensing bill and ban bump stocks and high-capacity magazines,” Pritzker said.

As far as gun violence and children, Pritzker said the matter has to be addressed, adding that the implements of violence are only one factor. The other is not being able to find human services, mental health services or homeless shelters when they are needed.

“I think weapons of war should stay in the theater of war,” Pritzker said about AR-15 types of weapons.

Pritzker, who was speaking to the editorial board of The Southern Illinoisan by telephone, said he has spent more time in Southern Illinois than any other candidate. He has focused his primary energy outside the collar counties to the other 96 counties of the state.

He believes the state needs to help people depend on themselves and the strength of their communities, rather than the government. He said small businesses are important in building that self-sufficiency.

“Two-thirds of the jobs created in Illinois are from small businesses,” Pritzker said.

However, he sees other factors that will need attention, such as infrastructure — specifically, offering high-speed internet everywhere in the state, building up universities and community colleges, and drawing large companies to Illinois.

“I think we need a governor who understand the strengths of the state and markets those strengths,” Pritzker said. “The critical focus of the next governor should be on jobs.”

Pritzker said the southern part of the state has seen challenges in the coal industry as the country moves toward clean energy. Southern Illinois used to have 25,000 coal mining jobs. Now, there are 2,500. He would like to draw clean energy jobs to “Little Egypt.”

Along with jobs, another issue is affordable housing, particularly the housing crisis in Cairo.

Pritzker thinks the state has a big role to play in the housing crisis because the governor has the ability to speak with members of the federal government and advocate on behalf of residents of the state. He said Sen. Richard Durbin has only heard from Gov. Rauner three times during his tenure, and called that a problem.

“Your job as governor is to stand up for the people of Illinois, and that means with the federal government, too,” Pritzker said. “I think the governor should do more on a federal level. We have a responsibility to keep people in Illinois with affordable housing.”

Pritzker is in favor of legalizing marijuana for a variety of reasons. First, it would do away with racial injustice created by unequal application of the law to people of color. Marijuana is readily available. And, legalization would create jobs and a tax revenue of $350 to $700 million.

“We ought to have legalized hemp growing in Illinois long ago,” Pritzker added.

Pritzker believes there are three factors in balancing the Illinois budget: job growth, attracting businesses and changing the tax system.

“Local property taxes are incredibly high because we fund our schools through that mechanism,” Pritzker said. “We need to lessen our dependency on local property taxes and increase the state’s share of funding.”

His other suggestions to balance the state budget include: instituting a progressive income tax, investing in early childhood education and preventative disease programs which result in long-term savings, and paying off short term debt to save in late fees and interest. Pritzker stresses the state also has to grow.

He favors paying pension liabilities.

“I think it is a moral obligation. Teachers are not overpaid. They do not make irrational salaries. And, they were promised pensions when they started,” Pritzker said.

He is against shifting pension costs to school districts or teachers to 401K plans.

“You are essentially handing the bill to someone else — handing the state’s bill to someone else,” Pritzker said.

He favors putting some economic development funding in Southern Illinois to help improve tourism.

He is against fracking.

Pritzker will support whatever candidate wins the Democratic primary, but he believes he will win. He pledged to work with everyone to solve the state’s problems.

“Good ideas come from everywhere. I’m a Democrat, but Republicans have good ideas, too,” Pritzker said.