socastcmsRssStartBy Greg Bishop | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
Illinois Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that dealing with the state’s financial problems will be a top priority.
To that end, Pritzker said he created a Budget and Innovation Committee that will work to address the state’s dire finances before he takes office.
Two days after beating Gov. Bruce Rauner by 15 points at the polls, he’s formed a transition team and has said more working committees on different issues will be established in the days ahead.
The Democrat appeared in Springfield at the AFL-CIO headquarters for the announcement flanked by various members of the newly announced committee, including former Democratic Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. Also on the committee will be former Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Republican. She was not at the event.
“The Budget and Innovation Committee will mold the guiding moral document that is our state budget and develop inventive solutions to move Illinois forward,” Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton said in a statement.
Pritzker said the group will evaluate the state’s existing finances and how to address shortfalls while keeping an eye on various ways to bring about innovation in government.
Illinois’ financial picture is bleak. The state has more than $200 billion of unfunded public employee retirement liabilities, and more than $7 billion in backlogged bills. That bill backlog is accruing interest of up to 12 percent a year. Plus the state budget approved this Spring has already been reported to be more than $1 billion out of balance.
Pritzker said there can only be one governor at a time and he will do what he can to provide input on how to deal with the current budget shortfall headed into the next fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2019.
Asked about tax rates for a proposed progressive tax that would require a change to the state constitution, Pritzker said he’s still listening to all sides and didn’t want to provide any rate structures. All during the campaign while promoting a progressive tax he had refused to provide rates.
He also said he didn’t have any comment about possible cuts to the budget to make up for the shortfall, or to address the pension debt.
Pritzker reiterated his support for legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana use for adults. As to the possibility of funding infrastructure through a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, tax, he said he never proposed such a thing, but he said he’s open to all options to find investments for critical infrastructure.
He also said taxpayers shouldn’t be concerned he will give away the store to a union that endorsed his campaign. Pritzker said he will be negotiating on behalf of taxpayers for a fair contract with the union. The largest state employee union, AFSCME, doesn’t have a contract as negotiations with Rauner broke down over nearly 3 years ago and the dispute is mired in court proceedings. Rauner had said AFSCME was asking for more than what taxpayers could afford.
Pritzker said he wants a report from the budget working group before the inauguration in January.
The budget committee includes Hynes, Radogno, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, state Senator Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hills, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Chief of Staff Jessica Basham, Chicago Budget Director Carol Brown, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Executive Director Ralph Martire, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Chief of Staff Kristin Richards, CCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks and Springfield Park District President Leslie Sgro.