J.B. Pritzker, Democratic Candidate For Governor
J.B. Pritzker is a Chicago venture capitalist, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He’s the Democratic nominee for Governor of Illinois, and recently sat down with Niala Boodhoo for an interview about his candidacy.
On spurring economic growth in cities and towns outside of Chicago: I think it's very important that someone who lives in Chicago understands the challenges that people are going through all across the state of Illinois. And that's why, throughout this campaign, I've probably spent more time with more people across downstate Illinois than any other statewide candidate in a long time.
And we put forward, from the very earliest moments of this campaign, a plan to create jobs in central and southern Illinois, as well as in Rockford and in other areas. I understand that jobs are critically important, we've got to make health care more available and lower-cost, and we've got to make higher education more affordable—including, allowing people to refinance their college debt at a lower cost so they can put hundreds of thousands of dollars back on the table.
Follow up: "I know you'll be in Rockford later today. Can you share some specifics of what you would do to create more jobs in Rockford?" Yes. One is that Rockford's got this terrific airport that provides a real economic development engine for that area of the state, as well as for the city itself. So we should be doing everything we can to bring federal dollars from Washington to help expand that airport, as well as to help build economic development and job opportunities around the airport.
And I also put forward a plan for helping small businesses in Rockford and other cities across the state of Illinois. Small businesses create the vast majority of jobs, and we ought to have a governor who understands that. I've spent my entire career helping people build small businesses into larger ones, and I know what it takes.
On what he'd do about the 4.95% state income tax rate in the short term, since changing Illinois' rate to a progressive tax system—which Pritzker supports—would require a change in the state constitution: Well, look, we've got to balance the budget of the state. It's fundamentally not balanced. There's a structural deficit in the state budget today. For two years, we went without a budget because Bruce Rauner failed, and then a third year that he vetoed the budget, and Republicans came together with Democrats in the legislature to override his veto. He doesn't really understand how to balance a budget.
Here are the things that you need to balance a budget: number one, you've got to look at - are there efficencies in state government? Can we run government better? Can we invest in things that will actually lower the cost of government, like early childhood education, or like prevention of diabetes in our Medicaid system, or HIV testing, and so on - all things that Bruce Rauner hasn't done a good job at.
And then, you've got to look at revenue. The best way to enhance revenue in the state, of course, is to create jobs. And under Bruce Rauner, fewer jobs were created during the same period of time that his predecessor had, and yet he called his predecessor a "miserable failure at job creation."
On Immigration: I want to protect our immigrant families from the attacks by Donald Trump in Washington, by the Republicans, who fundamentally just don't believe in immigration. My family were refugees to this country. When our family arrived, we were given a place to live by a social service agency, because wthey were penniless and had no place to live. They were given a public education, learned English at a public scohol, and then a public higher education as well. And our family has been extraordinarily fortunate.
Frankly, I think everybody should have the opportunity to succeed like that, and I'm going to make sure that that happens. I'm going to protect our immigrant popuation, enforce the TRUST Act, and make sure that we don't allow Donald Trump to dictate what our values are here in the state of Illinois.
On why he ultimately decided to return $330,000 in property taxes to Cook County, after an Inspector General report found he received that amount in tax breaks on his Gold Coast mansion—and whether that decision signaled that he changed his mind on this issue: Well, I didn't change my mind. What I was making sure was that there are no distraction from the real issues facing our state. The things I've been fighting for have been about the kitchen table issues for most people in the state: that's making sure we're lowering the cost of health care, lowering the cost of higher educationso they can send their kids to school, making sure we have vocational training in high schools, and creating jobs and raising wages. And those are the most important things to the people of the state, and so I just wanted to avoid any distraction.