With Election Day rapidly approaching, the campaign for Illinois governor has been contentious, to say the least - with ad after ad saturating the state and each of the candidates firing off countless attacks on their opponents at every turn.
To help cut through the noise, we asked all four candidates 11 of the most important questions to help inform voters on who they are and where they stand on certain issues facing Illinois.
Below are Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker's answers as they were submitted —
1. What are the three biggest issues you see facing the state and what are your plans to address them?
The three biggest issues facing the state are fiscal instability, unaffordable healthcare, and a deteriorating education system.
Bruce Rauner’s fiscal mismanagement and his manufactured two-year budget crisis blocked critical investments in education, human services, and economic development, especially in some of our most economically challenged communities. His divisive rhetoric and vilification of the Chicagoland region has pitted rural, suburban, and urban communities against each other. It’s the constitutional obligation of the governor to propose a balanced budget to the legislature. In three years, Bruce Rauner hasn’t met that obligation even once.
To address the state’s fiscal challenges, I will propose a forward-thinking balanced budget that prioritizes job creation, expanded healthcare coverage, and quality, equitable public education. I also have a job creation plan focuses on attracting and building up small businesses, building infrastructure, investing in higher education, nurturing our agricultural economy, and jumpstarting manufacturing. It’s especially important that we help communities that have suffered years of disinvestment, across Chicago and downstate, by giving small business owners and new entrepreneurs the attention and resources they need to thrive, like access to capital, training, and mentorship.
Across Illinois, hard-working families are facing loss of healthcare coverage, rising premiums, limited selection in the health insurance marketplace, and increasing out of pocket costs. Too often, those barriers keep families from accessing the care they need. That’s wrong. We can’t afford to sit back and watch Bruce Rauner continue to damage our state, and we all know the threat posed by Donald Trump and Republicans in Washington. That’s why I’ve put forward a plan that would expand coverage right away. My public health insurance option plan, called IllinoisCares, would allow every Illinoisan, regardless of county or income level, to be covered and would give middle class families and small businesses a break on the high cost of health insurance.
Even with recent improvements in K-12 funding, our education system as a whole is in worse shape than ever before. We can reverse this trend if we prioritize and invest in workers, children, and families to give them the tools they need for success. I have a five-point plan for early childhood education that would make sure every child participates in kindergarten, puts the state on a path towards universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, increases access to the Child Care Assistance Program, expands birth-to-three services, and attracts teachers to fill high need positions and invest in our education infrastructure. I also have a plan for higher education. We must increase college affordability, keep more of our students in state, and expand economic opportunity and innovation for our students.
2. Should you be elected governor, what are your immediate priorities for 2019?
As governor, my top three priorities will be investing in education for every student, creating good-paying jobs throughout the state, and expanding healthcare for Illinois’ families.
Providing a quality public education starts with early childhood education. I have a five-point plan for early childhood education that would make sure every child benefits from participation in kindergarten, puts the state on a path towards universal preschool for three and four year olds, increases access to the Child Care Assistance Program, expands birth-to- three services, attracts teachers to fill high need positions, and invests in our education infrastructure. We also need to increase state investments in public education across the board so that we move away from relying upon local property taxes and move toward the constitutional requirement of having the majority of our education funding come from the state. We can get there with a fair income tax, which will also allow us to reduce dependence upon the regressive property tax system. I believe that people like me and Bruce Rauner should pay a higher rate than teachers, firefighters, nurses and childcare workers. Our middle class and those striving to get into the middle class get relief, and our kids get the education they deserve. I also want to bring back vocational training to our high schools. Young men and women who decide not to go to college should be able to graduate high school and build careers without a college degree. Those who want to go to college should be able to do that without getting strapped with debt for the rest of their lives.
Another one of my most important goals as governor will be to create jobs and restore economic stability and vibrancy to the hardest hit communities across Illinois. My job creation plan includes a focus on attracting and building up small businesses, building infrastructure, such as statewide high-speed broadband internet connectivity, investing in higher education, nurturing our agricultural economy, and jumpstarting manufacturing. It’s especially important that we help communities that have suffered years of disinvestment, across Chicago and downstate, by giving small business owners and new entrepreneurs the attention and resources they need to thrive, like access to capital, training, and mentorship. That’s why I have an economic inclusion plan that will expand opportunities for minority entrepreneurs and small business owners across the state, reversing the trend of disinvestment and outward migration while restoring hope and opportunity for communities that need it most. Having engaged in building up the startup environment in Chicago, I believe strongly in Illinoisans’ creativity and entrepreneurial drive as the biggest and best creator of new jobs for Illinois.
Finally, healthcare is a right, not a privilege, which is why I favor universal health coverage. The state should do as much as it can to move in that direction as soon as possible, and I’ve put forward a plan that would expand coverage right away. My public health insurance option plan, called IllinoisCares, would allow even more Illinoisans to be covered and would give middle class families and small businesses a break on the high cost of health insurance. I will work with legislators and healthcare stakeholders to implement this public option to provide another choice in the health insurance marketplace. It will act as a buffer against rising premiums and market uncertainty – at no cost to taxpayers.
3. How do you plan to work with President Donald Trump's administration?
We should tap into federal funding wherever possible to improve healthcare, education, and infrastructure in Illinois.
But make no mistake - Donald Trump’s legislative agenda threatens to wreak havoc on the lives of Illinois families. Trump is actively working to dismantle health care in the United States, potentially stripping millions of families of their coverage and targeting those who need it most. He is waging war on science in his refusal to acknowledge climate change and his rejection of the policies that will preserve our future. Trump’s attacks on public education, immigrant families, and people of color are tearing communities apart and undermining the principles that make this country strong. Every day, Trump is exploiting divisions and peddling hate. Illinois will be deeply impacted by this administration’s devastating agenda, and Bruce Rauner is asleep at the wheel. Bruce Rauner is silent in the face of Trump’s attacks and refuses to put in place policies that will protect Illinois families. Worse, Bruce Rauner is actively working to force a special interest agenda on Illinois that will amplify Donald Trump’s destruction. After a 736-day budget crisis, with a state economy in turmoil, and with public school funding at risk, Illinois simply can’t afford Trump’s agenda or more of Bruce Rauner’s failed leadership.
My parents raised me with a commitment to social justice. I’ve spent my life fighting for Illinois families and bringing people together to solve big problems for this state. Those values are under attack and I am ready to fight every day to make sure Illinois is a firewall against Donald Trump’s destructive agenda and hateful rhetoric. We will protect and expand health care for all of our families, invest in education, defend our environment, stand with our immigrant families, and fight for civil rights. I’m running for governor because the values that I care about are under siege by Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner and I am ready to stand with passionate Illinoisans and resist.
4. Where do you stand on the implementation of a graduated income tax? If you support it, how do you plan to implement it?
Illinois needs to replace its regressive flat income tax with a fair tax, the same type of fair tax that the vast majority of states and the U.S. government have. It will help us balance the budget and improve funding for our education system. People like me and Bruce Rauner should pay a higher rate than teachers, firefighters, nurses and childcare workers. I will negotiate rates in a bipartisan fashion with the legislature, where we prioritize that those with higher incomes pay a higher rate than those in the middle class. We will also work to lower income taxes on the middle class and those striving to get there, and raise the state’s share of education funding. A fair income tax will help us to lower local property taxes by alleviating the dependency on the regressive property tax system as the predominant source of school funding.
5. Do you believe Illinois should legalize recreational marijuana? If so, how would you make this happen?
I will work with community stakeholders and policy makers to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, reduce mass incarceration, and reinvest in Illinois communities. I will put in place a framework to license businesses to sell marijuana to consumers for recreational use, placing an emphasis on intentionally including black and brown entrepreneurs in the planning and licensing of new marijuana businesses. New jobs and businesses must be created in the communities that have experienced the most disinvestment under Bruce Rauner. It is also important to learn lessons from other states that have already legalized marijuana.
6. Do you support term limits for elected officials? If so, how would you make this happen?
I do not support term limits for elected officials across the state. But as governor, I would sign legislation instituting term limits for legislative leadership positions and support ending the gerrymandering of districts to encourage more competitive elections.
7. What is your plan to address Illinois' unfunded pension liability?
Pensions are a promise to teachers, firefighters, nurses and other hard-working men and women, and the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the state must fund these pensions. Bruce Rauner has spent the last four years trying to break that promise. He has sought to cut pensions and destroy unions instead of bringing people together to grow our economy, pass a balanced budget, and work to solve this problem.
Bruce Rauner has also proposed letting Illinois declare bankruptcy, which would destroy the state’s credit rating, cost taxpayers billions in higher interest payments, and undermined the very foundation of our economy. Throughout his term in office, he has been fighting against working families. He vetoed a minimum wage increase, closed small business development centers, and halted infrastructure projects, putting thousands of people out of work.
There are a number of plans that have been discussed and debated about the future of our pension system. One proposed plan would step up our pension payments now, allowing the state to level out its future obligations. We also must never again skip pension payments. Unlike Bruce Rauner, I will honor the promises that have been made to the working men and women in Illinois and work with the legislature to address the pension issue, neither of which the current governor has done.
8. What do you believe can or should be done on the state level to address rising property taxes?
Bruce Rauner’s property tax freeze idea would hurt public schools at a time when they need help. We need to fund schools by passing a fair income tax so we can pay for public schools and reduce our dependency on local property taxes. We also need to increase state investments in public education across the board so that we move away from relying upon local property taxes and move toward the constitutional requirement of having the majority of our education funding come from the state. We can get there with a fair income tax, which will also allow us to reduce dependence upon the regressive property tax system. I believe that people like me and Bruce Rauner should pay a higher rate than teachers, firefighters, nurses and childcare workers. Our middle class and those striving to get into the middle class get relief, and our kids get the education they deserve.
9. What do you believe can or should be done on the state level to curb violence in Chicago?
Reducing gun violence is a top priority for me. Too many families and communities across this state, from Chicago to Rockford to Peoria, are too familiar with the tragedies of gun violence. It is killing innocent people, destroying families, and ripping apart our communities. Reducing gun violence requires us to address the root causes by funding a budget that supports human services and creating jobs – something Bruce Rauner hasn’t done in three years in office.
My criminal justice reform plan includes a public health approach to addressing gun violence and holding law enforcement accountable. My plan includes changes to current gun laws that would increase firearm safety and fight the proliferation of illegal guns in Illinois. As governor, I will also prioritize community programs like CeaseFire that interrupt violence at the local level. I would oppose attempts to legalize silencers in Illinois, support legislation that creates a Lethal Violence Order of Protection, and sign a gun dealer licensing bill.
To stop the flow of illegal guns into Illinois, I will work with stakeholders to create a consortium of states to stop gun trafficking across state lines, and support amending Illinois’ “lost and stolen law” to discourage illegal gun trafficking. I will work to create a dedicated gun crime investigation unit within state police that coordinates with local police departments to focus on illegal gun trafficking and gun crime. We also need an inter-agency working group to evaluate our progress in providing prohibiting records to the federal NICS background check system.
While I support hunter’s rights, we need universal background checks and a lethal violence of protection order so that families can step in to protect loved ones from harming themselves and others. I also support banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines in Illinois to help prevent mass shootings.
10. What experiences in your life have most shaped your politics?
11. What accomplishment or achievement of yours are you most proud of?