Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker touts fiscal progress but doesn’t touch on crime issues – Crain’s Chicago Business

Pritzker, who received a polite, but less than enthusiastic, reception rattled off a long string of economic and fiscal accomplishments that he said have put the state on the right track after COVID-19 and “pulled the rug out from the naysayers and pessimists who have built a career on badmouthing our state.”

Lawmakers just passed the fourth balanced budget in a row under his leadership, paying off $17 billion in bills left behind by former Gov. Bruce Rauner and shortening the state’s bill payment cycle to just two weeks, he said. The state has restocked its rainy day fund with $1 billion, put another $1 billion toward old group health insurance debt and given taxpayers $1.8 billion in tax relief, he added. He cited these as reasons why, in his view, Wall Street rating agencies have given the state six credit upgrades after nine cuts in the Rauner years.

Illinois’ gross state product is now growing faster than it was before the pandemic, has the greatest growth in small business start-ups of any large state and gained people, not lost them, in the last decade according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Pritzker, a former venture capitalist who specialized In tech investments, said state progress in that field “gets my blood moving.” He noted, among other things, a new investment tax credit for data farms that has been successful, pulling in $8 billion in private investments, and other credits to incent electric vehicle producers and suppliers, a promising move but one which has not yet produced results.

Only at the end did the Democratic incumbent touch on a raging crime problem, especially in Chicago, that has business leaders concerned. “We continue to need to address our challenges,” he said.

Chamber CEO Jack Lavin was more explicit.

In remarks after Pritzker left the stage, he praised the fiscal accomplishments but said “everyone is talking” about crime woes and the impact on the state’s ability to attract new jobs and growth. He also emphasized the impact of high property taxes, which have continued to rise during Pritzker’s tenure.

Neither Pritzker nor Lavin mentioned the fact that Illinois’s unemployment rate remains about a percentage point higher than the national average, that its job growth has trailed most other states and that there is still a huge hole in the state’s unemployment trust fund despite a recent move to shore it up with $2.7 billion in federal COVID relief funds.

And though Pritzker noted that unfunded liability dipped in the state’s pension funds last year, many fiscal experts expect it to soon grow again from its current $130 billion level.

Lavin returned to the property tax theme in announcing that the chamber’s PAC has endorsed Steele, the president of the Water Reclamation District board, over Kaegi, who has bragged in his TV ads about assessments by his office that have shifted much of the property-tax load from residential to commercial property owners. Lavin attributed the decision to “a staggering lack of transparency” in Kaegi’s assessments and “soaring” property taxes.

The chamber followed up with a $20,000 donation to Steele’s campaign fund, a somewhat unusual move in that most other recent contributions to Steele’s war chest have come from labor groups.


via “Illinois Politics” – Google News

June 7, 2022 at 02:59PM

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