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Pritzker tips hand a bit on first budget The governor-elect won’t push a light version of a graduated tax, preferring gambling, legal pot and sports-betting revenues. But a capital plan will come soon, as will a minimum-wage hike.

Crain's Chicago Business

Friday, November 9, 2018  |  Column  |  Greg Hinz

Governor (44)

J.B. Pritzker is dropping some hints about what’s likely to be in his first state budget, but the governor-elect still isn’t committing to much definite except giving full details in his February speech.

In a phone interview, Pritzker said the spending plan will be balanced and indicated he wants it passed on time by late spring. "Passing a budget is going to be a top priority," he said.

One thing that won’t be in the budget is an ersatz version of the graduated income tax, one that raises rates but then effectively eliminates them for most taxpayers by sharply increasing deductions. Pritzker had appeared to be leaning in that direction earlier in the year, suggesting it would be a good way to pursue change before a needed constitutional amendment authorizing a graduated tax can be implemented. But now, “That’s not something I’ll pursue,” Pritzker said.

Instead, the budget likely will rely on revenues from legalizing the recreational sale of marijuana products, expanded legal gambling and sports betting, Pritzker said. But “efficiencies in state government” will be part of the package, too, he added.

The Chicago Democrat said he’s also “looking seriously” at an idea from the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability to issue a large pension obligation bond issue and use it to pay down billions of dollars of pension debt more quickly than the state now is scheduled to do, hopefully saving money in the long run by paring interest costs.

Pritzker said many details will be resolved by his transition financial team, which includes former Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, former Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno and CTBA chief Ralph Martire.

Other early priorities will include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour after a transition period, "lowering the cost of health care"—Pritzker has proposed allowing anyone to buy into the Medicare system—and expanded aid for college students. Pritzker said the minimum-wage hike would include a feature designed to “relieve the burden on small business."
 
Also on the list for "early in our administration": a big capital program for roads, bridges, transit and related work. The new governor is under some pressure to raise gasoline taxes to pay for such work, but did not indicate where he would end up.