Bernard Schoenburg: Pritzker doesn’t seek cash as he backs labor

http://ift.tt/2ipDqnVBernard Schoenburg Political Writer @bschoenburg

Statewide candidates who have courted labor in the past have often benefited from — and taken criticism from opponents for — getting campaign money from those groups.

But while Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. PRITZKER — already endorsed by the state AFL-CIO — wants volunteers from the labor movement to help his effort, the billionaire is self-funding his campaign and not seeking contributions.

So at a “labor lunch” in Springfield this week, Pritzker talked of the need for a strong labor movement without asking anyone to take out their wallet.

“Even people who don’t belong to labor unions benefit from the work that labor unions do on their behalf, and I extol the virtues of that everywhere I go,” Pritzker said. He spoke to about 80 people Monday at Carpenters Local 270 at an event hosted by the Springfield & Central Illinois Trades and Labor Council and the Central Illinois Building Trades. “It’s important for people to know that if (Gov.) BRUCE RAUNER is successful, if he gets right-to-work legislation, if he diminishes the power of unions or eliminates unions, which is what he’d really like to do, everybody’s wages … will go down.”

Pritzker’s running mate, state Rep. JULIANA STRATTON, hit on a similar theme, saying Rauner has had “a single agenda of trying to destroy unions.” She also said many people say the state can’t afford “four more years of the failed leadership” of Rauner.

The governor said in June that he was looking forward to a ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court in a case brought by state worker MARK JANUS that would end what unions call “fair share” dues. Those are payments to the union from people at union-covered workplaces who don’t join. Rauner called the payments “a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing the taxpayers.” He also hopes Supreme Court action will allow local right-to-work zones.

At the lunch, Pritzker called it “truly a shame” that Illinois has a governor rooting for “defeating labor unions in the Janus case.”

“I think people have a right to collectively bargain,” he said. “I do not like the idea that we’re going to not have people pay their fair share for something that labor unions are doing for them.”

Although Pritzker said that Rauner has low approval ratings, he noted the incumbent can still win re-election. He noted that President DONALD TRUMP also had low approval but got elected in 2016 because he “trashed his opponent.”

Pritzker predicted Rauner will “try to trash Democrats in this state. … We’re not going to stand idle while he does it. We’re going to fight back.”

Pritzker has also been critical of Rauner for not taking on Trump policies, including the president’s push to end the Affordable Care Act. Pritzker got some laughs talking of having to hold his head “low for a moment” to talk about the election of Trump.

“After I got out of the fetal position after the November election,” Pritzker said, “I realized that we need to have a governor in the state of Illinois who doesn’t just sit silently when the president and his party in Washington” try to take away health care from so many people.

The Pritzker campaign has 15 offices open across the state, including one in Springfield.

Pritzker also talked about issues including the need for a progressive income tax to replace the “unfair, regressive” flat-tax in the state.

“That progressive income tax will allow us to fight for protecting the middle class and those striving to get there,” Pritzker said. “The burden should not fall on the middle class to pay for the things that we need in this state.”

He praised the work of state Sen. ANDY MANAR, D-Bunker Hill — who has endorsed Pritzker and also spoke — in getting the school aid formula changed to help create a fairer system. But Pritzker also said property taxes are too high because the state only provides about a quarter of the funding for elementary and secondary schools – much lower than in other states.

JUSTIN GIORGIO, spokesman for the Rauner campaign, responded later that, “Bruce Rauner has fought for the people of Illinois since the day he took office, vetoing (House Speaker) MIKE MADIGAN’s 32 percent tax hike and working to enact real spending reforms. Meanwhile, J.B. Pritzker’s plan would require increased taxes on Illinois families. Pritzker and Madigan’s tax-and-spend policies are just more of the same politics that have failed in Illinois.”

Some Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in overriding Rauner’s veto, and top GOP lawmakers this summer said Rauner had agreed to the new tax level in a proposed “capitol compromise,” but only with business-friendly reforms.

Other top Democratic contenders for governor are CHRIS KENNEDY of Kenilworth and state Sen. DANIEL BISS of Evanston. Kennedy and Biss also back a graduated income tax.

Bost undecided

U.S. Rep. MIKE BOST, R-Murphysboro, says he hasn’t decided who to back for governor in the March 20 GOP primary.

Bost said he doesn’t always agree with Rauner’s positions, but “he and I have a good working relationship.”

State Rep. JEANNE IVES, R-Wheaton, is challenging Rauner in the primary, and Bost served with her in the Illinois House.

“I was in leadership when Jeanne Ives came in, and so, I wish her well,” Bost said. “I think that she’s got some very strong ideas and she is real passionate about those ideas.”

Bost was interviewed as he was in line at the State Board of Elections to file nominating petitions for another term in Congress.

Seven of Illinois’ 18 members of the U.S. House are Republicans, and all seven, including Bost, issued a statement critical of Rauner’s signature of House Bill 40, which would expand state taxpayer funding of abortions for women on Medicaid and under state employee health insurance, the Chicago Tribune reported in early October.

The statement said Rauner had “let down Illinois taxpayers and the unborn” by signing H.B. 40, which Ives opposed.

Rauner said he signed the bill because low-income women “deserve to have a choice as much as anyone else.”

Asked in Chicago later about the fact that most GOP U.S. House members from Illinois haven’t endorsed his re-election bid, Rauner said: “I work for everyone in Illinois, every day.” Besides Bost, U.S. Reps. DARIN LaHOOD, PETER ROSKAM and JOHN SHIMKUS haven’t taken sides in the governor primary.

— Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, http://twitter.com/bschoenburg.

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