Pritzker’s Second Term Could Use a Move to the Center

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OPINION

After some bipartisan successes early in 2019, including doubling the gas tax to pay for a $45 billion infrastructure program, Pritzker seemingly cut out the minority party moving leftward during the COVID-19 pandemic and the spending priorities for billions in federal bailout funds.

His 2022 campaign focused almost exclusively on the issue of abortion, trying to make his right-wing opponent, Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), unpalatable to suburban voters, specifically women.

The strategy surely paid off as Pritzker defeated Bailey by around 12 points and some 465,000 votes.

Now we turn our attention what Pritzker’s second term will look like.

It appears social issues won’t slip to the back burner completely. When asked the day after the election if lawmakers should attempt to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, Pritzker called it “certainly something we could think about.”

Though, he said his priority was to “successfully expand our capacity to deal with the challenges that are now facing Illinois” referring to an influx of abortion-seekers with neighboring states limiting abortion practices.

“I pledge to women all across the state that I take it as a personal responsibility that we should protect them and we should do everything we can to continue to do that,” Pritzker said.

It is already easier to receive an abortion in Illinois than nearly any state in the nation. With the abortion of the state’s parental notification law for minors seeking abortions, there is nearly no restriction on abortions before fetal viability, but it doesn’t appear Pritzker is backing off the hot button issues.

He pledged Democrats in the legislature will take action on guns and abortion they had originally planned for the summer.

“Whether we get it done in November or we get it done in January, early in the session, whenever that may be, we are going to work on passing an assault weapon ban and making sure we are protecting women’s reproductive rights by expanding capacity and making the investments that are necessary here in our state to protect women,” Pritzker said last week.

While the Governor doesn’t seem interested in moving to the center (where polling shows two thirds of Illinoisans are) on abortion, the hope would remain he handles the state’s still treacherous finances with a measured hand.

The state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) recently increased the state’s current budget year revenue projection by around $250 million.

When Pritzker announced his run for re-election in the summer of 2021, he laid out a wish list including free community college, free preschool, and free child care. While the statements have largely been forgotten in the past 15 months, it isn’t clear what emphasis the Governor may put on the ideas in an FY2024 budget (or beyond).

Pritzker has already proposed adding $1.3 billion to the state’s rainy day fund, pay down more of outstanding 2010 bonds, and to pay more toward the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

The money, of course, has to come from somewhere, and Pritzker will have to manage his priorities with Democratic supermajorities in the legislature that seem to want to spend a buttload of money on about everything without identifying ways to pay for it.

There was no plan laid out for additional resources to pay down the state’s massive pension debt.

“I would love to work on continuing to balance the budget and run surpluses so that we can look at permanent tax relief,” Pritzker said last week.

Even though Republicans were pounded at the polls last week, in part to the unpopularity of Darren Bailey and/or Donald Trump, the abortion issue, or just bad fundraising, it’s unlikely to assume there will be any olive branches between the two parties.

“Comprimise is a good thing and if [Republicans] have good ideas they should bring them to the table,” Pritzker said last week.

But no Republicans have been at Pritzker’s table in the final two years of his first term, and most in Springfield don’t expect they’ll even be invited for the scraps fed to the Governor’s two doodles.

Essentially, my hope is that President Biden announces a run for re-election sooner than later to end Pritzker’s flirtation with a campaign for the Oval Office. Then you’ll see a politician talking less to a national audience, MSNBC viewers, and Daily Kos readers and he can moderate himself for a productive second term.

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November 18, 2022 at 07:02PM

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