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Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office Monday as Illinois’ 43rd governor, putting a Democrat back in the governor’s mansion after four years under Republican rule.
In a speech directly following his inauguration, held at the Bank of Springfield Center, he emphasized the need for Republicans and Democrats to pass a balanced budget, something Illinois lacked for two years of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s term. Between 2015 and 2017, Illinois was in a fiscal impasse, and lawmakers only managed to pass a budget when the state legislature overrode Rauner’s veto.
“But be clear about this: I won’t balance the budget on the backs of the starving, the sick, and the suffering,” Pritzker said in a prepared speech. “I won’t hollow out the functions of government to achieve an ideological agenda — I won’t make government the enemy and government employees the scapegoats.”
Pritzker outlined other progressive policy initiatives, including the legalization of marijuana and a $15 minimum wage. Pritzker also said he will protect workers’ union rights and strengthen Illinois’ infrastructure, including bridges, railways and roads.
Pritzker said the state government needs to be more efficient, and that the current regressive tax system is “unsustainable,” making the middle class pay twice as much as the wealthy pay. The Illinois state constitution currently mandates a flat income tax in which all citizens pay the same rate, regardless of income. A report by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability found that “the top one percent of income earners pay just 4.6 percent of their income in State and local taxes, while the middle 20 percent of workers pay more than double that, coming in at 10.8 percent of income.” He added that with less government waste, he will be able to attract new jobs and businesses for Illinois.