* Rick Pearson at the Tribune…
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker indicated Tuesday he will sign a controversial ethics bill that he acknowledged “didn’t go far enough,” saying he believes it makes some progress toward restoring the public’s trust in Illinois government.
In a short but wide-ranging interview on his first full day as an announced candidate for reelection, Pritzker also hailed House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch as a “breath of fresh air” in replacing his scandal-tarred predecessor, Michael Madigan. The billionaire governor also committed to funding other Democrats on next year’s ballot.
Eschewing a traditional fly-around of the state to announce his bid for a second term in favor of a campaign video followed by a day of media interviews, Pritzker pledged a return to addressing “kitchen table” issues such as affordable education and health care, as well as economic development and job growth in the tech and energy sectors, which were upended in part by the pandemic.
Promoting his success in passing an increase in the minimum wage, expanded subsidized health care and a jobs-producing multiyear infrastructure rebuilding program, Pritzker said, “We generally made government work for people” during his term.
* The governor also talked about what he might’ve done differently last year with Mike Flannery at Fox 32…
“When you walk into a Walmart, in addition to there being a grocery store, there’s also other things that you could buy. And so I think, certainly in retrospect now, I think what we would say is, ‘if you could have kept the capacity limit appropriate in a smaller venue, it might have kept that open,’” Pritzker said.
That might have saved at least some of the small retailers who went bust during the earlier emergency shutdown, which the governor said he ordered in adherence to federal guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
“But we were following, in a very unknown environment, with a new coronavirus – the federal government was essentially saying to us, ‘you need to keep these things open and you need to close the other things,’” Pritzker said. […]
Some Republican governors in states such as Florida have explicitly ruled out another round of pandemic-related shutdowns. Pritzker said he will not do that.
“You can’t say that. There were people last summer who thought we should rule out, you know, additional mitigation… and you saw what happened in October, November, December. I mean it was worse than it was in April and May.”
That small business line essentially invited a much more thorough look at what his administration did during the pandemic.
* Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times…
One day after launching his bid to hold on to an office he spent a record-breaking $171 million of his own money to win, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday brushed aside criticism from the right that he would “attempt to buy another election.”
But the Chicago billionaire wouldn’t estimate how much of his own personal fortune he expects to spend this time, beyond promising a “robust campaign” to help Democrats win up and down the ballot. […]
Asked about Bailey and the other two Republicans vying for the chance to unseat him, the governor called the GOP field “a mess” and said he’s “not going to address the challenges that they’ve got as a party and all the varying views that exist among the Republican candidates.” […]
“We want to make sure we have a robust apparatus to elect Democrats, and so I know that the [Democratic Party of Illinois] is making attempts to get around the FEC ruling and we’ll have to see where that comes out,” Pritzker said. “I’ve always liked and respected Robin Kelly — she’s been a great U.S. congressperson … so I’ll continue to support her.”
* More than one reporter asked him how much he’d be spending, which seems like a question destined for a non-answer…
Pritzker, who will be looking for a second term as governor in next year’s election, demurred when asked by NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern about how much he’d be willing to spend in the 2022 race, and said that he’s focused solely on running a “robust” campaign and on trying to help down-ticket Democrats win their races.
“I’m focused on running a robust campaign, and to make sure that we elect Democrats up and down the ticket, not just myself,” he said. “We’ve got Constitutional officers who are running for re-election, and people who are running for county board seats, and state rep and state senate (so I’ll spend) like I did in 2018 when we created Blue Wave Illinois to help everybody up and down the ticket.”
* A.D. Quig at Crain’s…
College affordability will be key, he says. “The largest number of people who leave our state are the young people who want to go to college but can’t afford to stay in Illinois to do so, so they go somewhere else,” he said. “I think that every family that earns a median income or below—that’s about $63,000, $64,000—ought to be able to afford to go to college. In fact, it ought to be free for their kids to go to college in Illinois.”
Last year, Pritzker pushed the University of Illinois system to expand its free tuition program, known as the Illinois Commitment, to cover tuition and campus fees for state resident students with a family income of up to $67,000. Pritzker’s idea appears to be broader, covering other state colleges and universities. Beyond that, Pritzker says he’s already working on universal preschool and making child care more affordable across the state. […]
But the governor, a former tech funder, said he also wants to create jobs by solidifying Illinois’ position as a national capital for quantum computing and tech startups.
“I want us to be the next Silicon Valley, that will do as much for job creation and raising incomes and the economy in Illinois as anything,” he said, adding that aims to take the success of tech hub 1871 and replicate it at smaller Innovation Network hubs around the state, in addition to launching small-business centers statewide.
“We’re monitoring closely what’s happening with the delta variant,” Gov. Pritzker said. “Missouri is the worst state in the union right now for COVID and it is bleeding over into Southern Illinois and Metro-East.”
Gov. Pritzker said he will consider restrictions again if the virus gets out of hand.
He has faced criticism for the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle VA home where 36 veterans died.
“I grieve for the many families who have lost loved ones,” Pritzker said. “I really believe that we should do the right thing for the families.” […]
“Republicans did absolutely nothing to help us save lives or livelihoods during this pandemic. They weren’t in favor the mitigations, they weren’t [for] the things that we did to keep small businesses open,” Pritzker said.
* More on the GOP from Craig Wall…
He did not seem the least bit concerned about his potential Republican rivals.
“Look, I think it’s a mess over there on the Republican side, they’ve got to work all of that out amongst each other,” Pritzker said. “Their idea of success, of course, is nobody gets vaccinated. We don’t worry about what happens to hospitals or to people’s health, or to people’s livelihood, so I’m not sure what their idea of success is.”
Pritzker, who took a shot at President Trump in his campaign ad, shared a warning to the current and potential Republican challengers.
“I think if you know if they’re all going to run a pro-Trump line, I think that’s a losing effort,” Pritzker said. […]
“So, whoever it is that ends up being the Republican nominee, they’re all standing in the same place, which is against what’s best for working families in Illinois,” Pritzker said.
* This AP angle will likely spark interest among opponents…
J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday said he has engineered a road back to sound state finances in making a case for a second term as Illinois governor, but he carefully left open continuing to pursue a graduated income tax that would raise revenue by taking a bigger chunk from the wealthy. […]
But he didn’t rule out a second try at what he calls the “fair tax” because 97% of taxpayers would pay the same or lower taxes. He merely said there were no plans for a campaign before his current term expires in January 2023.
Except Craig Wall reported that Pritzker said he had no plans to do that if reelected. An actual quote from the AP would’ve been nice.
* Paris Schutz with WTTW has more…
As for a second term agenda, the governor touted the same priorities that President Biden and national democrats have been pushing – things like expanded child care credits, universal pre-K and free college tuition for Illinoisans families earning up to the median income.
“Early childhood education and child care in our state needs to be expanded,” Pritzker said. “I think that everyone that’s certainly at the median income and below ought to be able to go to college for free.”
Pritzker was non-committal on the prospect of once-again pushing a constitutional amendment to institute a graduated income tax to bring in new revenue to pay for these initiatives, after a similar initiative failed last year.
“I’ve been all about lowering taxes for middle class and asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more,” Pritzker said. “And while we weren’t able to do that with fair tax, we cut corporate welfare by $655 million in this last budget. That does a significant amount to reduce the structural deficit we have in the state and move some of that to paying for people to go to college and make sure we’re expanding child care and early childhood.”