Pritzker delivers budget address, calls for bipartisanship
Gov. J.B. Pritzker revealed his budget on Wednesday, calling it fair and balanced.
"We must allow those who came before us to shape what lies ahead," Pritzker said in his budget announcement. "When reviewing past reports, the same problems are raised over and over: There's not enough money to address social ills, not enough to employ people."
Pritzker said these problems have existed for the last two hundred years.
"The budget will not be done anymore by taking the state hostage," Pritzker said. "We will work together earnestly to fix the state’s problems."
The newly elected governor said Illinois has to stop slashing programs that build future prosperity.
"If we cut skills training and college affordability, we curb near-term economic growth and lower prospects for future growth and drive businesses away," Pritzker said. "Let’s not hollow out vital government services anymore. Let’s make sure we’re truly managing and measuring the real results of state programs. Taxpayers deserve to know their dollars are being spent wisely."
The governor said the state needs to explore new ways to fix old problems.
"We must also grow jobs and foster a business environment," Pritzker said. "We can also grow our economy and make it more inclusive by (engaging) the diverse people of this state."
Pritzker pushed hard for a progressive income tax.
"A fair tax is what three-fourths of states with an income tax have," Pritzker said. "I want to implement a fair tax system that is lower than our metropolitan competitors on the east and west coasts."
Pritzker said the state needs a fair tax.
"I am going to be relentless (about) pursuing (a fair tax) over the next few years," Pritzker said. "Middle-class families have paid enough."
His speech also touched on the hotly debated minimum-wage issue.
"With the current minimum wage, working full-time you’re only making $17,000 a year," Pritzker said. "You can’t live off of $17,000. The current minimum wage is a lifetime sentence to poverty. I find that unacceptable."
Pritzker signed a new $15 minimum wage bill into law last week.
"This is less than I’d like to do but it’s what we can afford to do," Pritzker said. "Like you, I carry the burdens of this state in my heart and, despite the heavy load, I lift it every day. I know the road ahead is hard but I think it’s about time we walk it together."
Many Republicans did not agree with the budget, saying it held the same ideologies as previous governors' budgets that have put the state in fiscal peril.
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) said calling the budget balanced was laughable because it contained the same tricks and gimmicks from the past.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider also said the budget wasn't too different from past budgets.
“Pritzker’s unbalanced budget proposal is more of the same: failed policies that got our state into the mess it’s currently in. Illinois taxpayers cannot afford to return to the budget deficits and failed policies of the Blagojevich era," Schneider said in a press release.