Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker earlier this week announced a $45.4 billion budget proposal that includes tax relief on groceries, gasoline and property.
But, according to critics, those tax breaks are "election year gimmicks."
With inflation causing higher prices, the governor is looking for ways to offset that burden. He hopes to lift the 1% sales tax on groceries for one year, freeze the motor fuel tax that goes toward road building at 39.2 cents per gallon instead of allowing the indexed rate to increase to 2.2 cents and provide a rebate of up to $300 dollars equal to the property tax credit available on income taxes.
Pritzker says the changes will bring "real relief for families across Illinois."
But businessman Gary Rabine, one of Pritzker's Republican opponents in the governor's race, say the budget is “a one-time giveaway based on a huge federal government bailout” from COVID-19 relief funds.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, another Republican candidate for governor, questioned, “Once this one time money for COVID-19 dries up, what’s he going to do the year after that, and the year after that?"
"Well, the same thing he’s done before, he’s going to come back to the residents of Illinois and say I want to raise your taxes," Irvin continued.
Pritzker, however, stated federal relief funds don't play a role in his plans, explaining, “We have a surplus budget without any federal dollars at all."
Ted Dabrowski with Wirepoints, a non-partisan group that examines government finances, says Illinois needs structural reform - not small changes.
"Sadly, Illinoisans, you know, they pay the second highest property taxes in the country," he said. "They pay the second highest gas taxes in the country. They don't need a small one year relief..."
Not just tax relief, the governor also faced questions on crime and if his criminal justice reform bill went too far.
Illinois Sen. Darren Bailey, a Republican who is also running for governor, said "the men and women who break the law seem to have more rights than we the people, and something’s wrong with that.”
Pritzker disagreed and said, in part, “...There were many people, many people, who were in the room making decisions from all over the state, including law enforcement.”
Both of these issues – crime and taxes – are likely to dominate the 2022 governor’s race.