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Pritzker on Madigan, taxes, cannabis and Downstate

Tuesday, Jan 21, 2020

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Gov. J.B. Pritzker regularly deflects questions about House Speaker Michael Madigan’s future by saying he wants to let the investigative process work.

But during an interview with me to mark his one-year anniversary in office, the governor pointed to his reaction after Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, was indicted, now-former Sen. Martin Sandoval’s, D-Chicago, Statehouse office was raided and now-former Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, was arrested. In every instance, he said, he called on the legislators to step aside or resign.

When there’s “clear” evidence of targeting by criminal investigators, the governor said, “that’s the point at which folks should step aside.”

The questions aren’t new. During the sexual harassment scandals of 2018, candidate Pritzker was often asked if Madigan should relinquish at least one or both of his roles as House speaker and state party chairman. He’d always defer, pretty much just like he’s done during the sweeping federal probe.

Pritzker’s latest answer, however, is more specific and allows him to set the bar for any showdown with Madigan, who surely seems to be on the federal government’s radar screen, but for what nobody knows for sure. No crimes have yet been alleged. We know that some of his pals have been raided (including Mike McClain), but it’s still unclear what, exactly, the feds are looking at other than hiring Democratic cronies by the private company ComEd.

The governor also claimed that the constant drumbeat of scandal and corruption surrounding Madigan would not damage the prospects for his graduated income tax constitutional amendment referendum this November. One of the arguments the opposition has already used boils down to: “Do you trust these Madigan people to do the right thing with the new tax and the new revenue?”

Pritzker said he didn’t think the two issues were related, prefacing his remarks by saying “we need to make sure we’re passing legislation” on ethics and reform and “rooting out these folks” with investigations.

”I think it’s fairly straightforward to people that I believe in a fairer tax system, and so do a significant majority of people in the state,” Pritzker said. “So I don’t think it’ll have a deleterious effect in that regard.” I guess we’ll find out.

I also asked Pritzker if he planned to reopen the cannabis legalization law to expand it to other things, like, for instance, home grow licenses for recreational consumers.

”From my perspective,” Pritzker said, “we need to let this law settle in.

”We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to monitor and keep track of to determine what other technical changes may need to take place.”

One thing he wants looked at, Pritzker said, is setting up some sort of cash deposit program after reading of a recent burglary at a Chicago cannabis dispensary. Over $100,000 was stolen, and police suspect it was an “inside job.” What to do with all that cash has dogged the industry for years because banks fear a federal government crackdown.

The governor also talked about what he is doing to help Downstate in the wake of a report the region lost almost 120,000 people between 2010 and 2018. The previous decade was very hard on Cook County, which lost over 200,000 residents in that period, but now it’s Downstate’s turn.

Pritzker pointed to $420 million in the 2019 capital bill for high-speed broadband. Matt Schmitt led Minnesota’s much-lauded broadband build-out after passing the legislation as a state senator and was recruited by Pritzker to come here. The governor said Notices of Funding Opportunities will be issued within the next six months “so that we can get money out the door to start expanding broadband.”

”That’s a big thing because you can’t create jobs in cities or towns where there isn’t high-speed Internet,” Pritzker said. “It’s in every business.”

He also said the state will help bring “tele-health” centers to areas with broadband service so that people can obtain video-conferencing health services like counseling and diagnostic care from providers who wouldn’t normally live in those areas. “People who have mental health challenges who require therapy, sometimes there aren’t qualified therapists in their area, so that’s an example of something that really does work, it’s got a proven history.”

Pritzker also said he was working to recruit jobs to the region and talked about incentives from last year, including the data center tax credit pushed by Republicans. “We’ve created a bunch of incentives for people to come to the state.”

”We’re going to do more,” the governor said. “Downstate revitalization is a very important program for me.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

26 Comments
  1. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 9:20 am:

    Downstate Revitalization is very important to the Governor?

    Then why does he disregard their concerns about the competitive disadvantage they are now in compared to their neighboring states?

    Just more lip service from another one size fits all Cook County Democrat who refuses to acknowledge the different needs and competitive situation that exists downstate.


  2. - Harmless Fun - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 9:42 am:

    Local bar had to take keys from a patron who was unfit to drive. In addition to liquid intoxicants, the person (who blacked out) overindulged in edibles.

    Green grass and high times forever.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 9:57 am:

    Great stuff, Rich.

    The most telling thing is the Governor talking about downstate as part of Illinois, a partner, a one state situation that as the governor it’s a priority to him. Sounds like a rational adult.

    It is a shame those who represent downstate hold town halls about becoming a 51st state instead of those same legislators actually working in their capacity as legislators to find common ground with the governor and where everyone wins, but mostly downstate wins.

    Such a contrast from the Hateful Eight.


  4. - don the legend - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 10:04 am:

    Does JB sometimes stumble in his responses? What public figure or elected official doesn’t.

    But what a pleasure to have a State’s chief executive willing and able to talk about ideas, solutions and working together.

    Raunerites (LP) are so blind they can’t see the improvement.


  5. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 10:15 am:

    Great on the governor focusing on downstate, and for getting pro-business reforms that Raunerites failed to get, in their anti-union lather. Madigan and many in the ILGOP deserve credit as well, for enacting the budget, capital bill and reforms. How much better is it for the state and governmental processes that there are no Raunerites to obstruct and needlessly attack people who by far overpower them?


  6. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    Madigan deserves credit for passing business reforms after resisting any changes Republicans asked for during the 4 years Rauner administration? Why?

    Working together would actually mean listening to downstates concerns about the same minimum wage as Chicago, property tax reform, worker’s compensation reform etc.

    How exactly are things better downstate?

    The Illinois exodus continues


  7. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 11:01 am:

    Pritzker needs to visit the border communities. Just look at the Quad Cities. Scott County is growing and Rock Island County is shrinking. More and more Deere employees are living in Davenport and Bettendorf and crossing the bridge to work.


  8. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 11:04 am:

    Pritzker’s leadership team does not have a single person from Southern Illinois on it.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 11:09 am:

    === Pritzker’s leadership team does not have a single person from Southern Illinois on it.===

    Should the response be to form a 51st state… or maybe the Hateful Eight should sit down with the governor and discuss common ground.

    Right now, the past shows town halls with folks talking “51st State” and not much talk about working together.

    Being a victim here isn’t leveraging that info. Going and meeting with the governor is leveraging it.


  10. - Earnest - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 11:56 am:

    I like Pritzker best when he talks like a business incubator guy–create the right conditions for businesses to come and grow like good infrastructure, high speed internet and access to healthcare. Add to that K-12, vocational training and higher educational opportunities. I agree with many comments on other factors, but you’ve got to have a foundation on which to build.


  11. - Al - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 11:56 am:

    Isn’t pritzker currently under federAl investigation?


  12. - BCOSEC - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 11:57 am:

    The governor seems to usually take the higher ground. He should reach out to business leaders downstate, who tend to be more moderate and interested in getting things done.
    Focus on the economy.

    Also, continue to visit the regular people downstate, such as going to the fairs and attending community events. This does more good than one might think.


  13. - Maryjane - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 12:10 pm:

    - Harmless Fun
    “Local bar had to take keys from a patron who was unfit to drive.”

    There being no link to back up this account notwithstanding, the notion of an intoxicated driver having their keys taken so they don’t drive is indeed a very good one, especially at a bar.


  14. - XonXoff - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 12:40 pm:

    Rich, I appreciate you asking him specifically about homegrow. Unfortunately that’s roughly the answer I expected. I mean, he’s not going to say “how would we make any money off that?” Aside from taxes on growing supplies it doesn’t provide the state or “the new industry” the revenue opportunities they gain by getting into, licensing, and controlling the entire legal supply chain. I don’t realistically see homegrow being added via legislation in Illinois before our retirement.


  15. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 1:46 pm:

    Governor Pritzker previously and publicly acknowledged his belief that home grow was a right.

    His latest non-answer was evasive…at best.

    I would ask our Governor once again…is home grow our right?…or not?…and hope for a straight answer.

    I only want to be self-sufficient…it’s the American way…right?


  16. - LakeCo - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 2:16 pm:

    Great use of the word “deleterious”


  17. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 2:18 pm:

    ===Then why does he disregard their concerns about the competitive disadvantage they are now in compared to their neighboring states?===

    Why do you assume that some of the loudest voices coming form down state are the only ones voicing concerns that matter?

    While you speak of competitive disadvantages, I think you’re ignoring the disservice that is done to places like Pope County when they have to generate a majority of their K-12 funding from property tax levies.

    I think you’re doing a disservice to communities where the “good jobs” are at stores, gas stations, or franchises that are owned by out of state firms that suck as much out of the communities that host them as they can and return as little as possible to their employees, regardless of their individual merits and abilities.

    If one listens to the loudest voices down state, one will find fools insisting that poorly defined region that is receiving public spending in excess of 2 to 1 what they’re paying in taxes, and communities where the biggest or best employer is the State of Illinois insisting that they must secede from Chicago while imagining that their Neo-Confederate Republic would some how magically keep those outlays.

    Of course, we know they believe in magic because that’s how they’re able to vote yea or nay when they’re at parades a several hour drive away.

    “Disregard” indeed. For fools need not be heeded, especially fools elected by those that are desperate and ill-equipped to understand their own circumstances because they believe the con-men that tell them of easy solutions and sow their racial prejudices.


  18. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    Candy Dogood bringing the heat


  19. - Maryjane - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 2:44 pm:

    - XonXoff, - Dotnonymous (and others)

    Since legalization in this state was via legislation, and since legalization support in general has become bi-partisan, do you think that personal home grow could become a future political campaign issue/platform here in Illinois?


  20. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 2:52 pm:

    Lucky Pierre - If Downstate population losses are a result of Democratic policies, why did Jim Thompson use 1980s new prison siting as a Downstate economic stimulus tool? Downstate population losses have been going on for 5+ decades.


  21. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 3:16 pm:

    Throwing out the phrase “Rural broadband” is a joke and an insult to those of us who care about Downstate economic development.
    As if those of us in areas left behind by global trade and monopoly mergers moving jobs steadily away to big cities, the South, or out of the country only need faster Internet access and that fixes things.

    Set up downstate business incubators like 1871 in Normal, Carbondale and Macomb and then get back to me, Pritzker.

    We need new vibrant companies to be founded in Downstate communities as old fossilized standbys like ADM, John Deere, CAT, and State Farm get older and older and and their executive leadership gets more and more removed from the concerns of Downstate Illinois.


  22. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 4:15 pm:

    I am an old man whose body is painfully broken from over/mis-use…I want to have a little garden where I could grow a few plants for myself…What is the harm?


  23. - XonXoff - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 4:25 pm:

    – do you think that personal home grow could become a future political campaign issue/platform here in Illinois? –

    Could? Sure. Likely? In my opinion, no.

    It could turn up as an issue on the periphery for someone but I feel the financial advantages of the legal supply chain carry much more weight than the rights and desires of responsible healthy adults who would simply prefer to grow this plant for themselves, like a tomato. I just don’t see homegrow standing on its own and doing well from here forward. There’s no sexy tax or social equity advantage to talk about.

    That’s why I was so disappointed to see it tossed off, like ballast, so quickly in the first place.

    If I were younger I’d be more patient about waiting another 5-10 years but I’m at the far end and there are plenty of other states who already treat their taxpayers more fairly on this and in other ways.


  24. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 4:26 pm:

    == Throwing out the phrase “Rural broadband” is a joke and an insult to those of us who care about Downstate economic development.==
    If there is no high speed internet how can areas without it entice employers?
    ==Set up downstate business incubators like 1871 in Normal, Carbondale and Macomb and then get back to me, Pritzker.==
    These places already have state universities which also promote incubators. It’s the non university locations that need help.

    https://thesouthern.com/business/local/siu-s-business-incubator-programs-hatch-successful-businesses/article_8559c836-8820-598f-ba67-4ca927812ee6.html

    https://www.wglt.org/post/isu-plans-bring-new-business-incubator-bloomington-normal#stream/0

    https://www.maedco.org/business-incubator/


  25. - XonXoff - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 4:48 pm:

    == I am an old man whose body is painfully broken from over/mis-use…I want to have a little garden where I could grow a few plants for myself…What is the harm? ==

    As I see it there is no harm now, so long as you’re documented as unhealthy enough and willing to pay the state for an annual medical license.


  26. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jan 21, 20 @ 6:44 pm:

    “Competitive advantage” from the right wing means race to the bottom—stripping union rights and other worker protections to low-ball us to corporations. We clearly don’t need that nor do we want it, per the 2018 elections. Minnesota is by far the highest income state in the region (not counting us), and they’re doing none of the right wing things, like RTWFL.


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