The stark choice for Illinois governor

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DEMOCRATIC candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker (left) and Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (right) are two of the wealthiest individuals in Illinois. Despite their great wealth, they support very different policies to solve the state’s fiscal problems, with a starkly different impact on working families.

By TOM SUHRBUR

Illinois Education Association – retired

SUHBUR

Two of the wealthiest individuals in Illinois, Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker, are running for governor in the November election. Despite their great wealth, they support very different policies to solve the state’s fiscal problems. Which of these two candidates will best represent the interest of working people?

Pritzker supports a graduated income tax that would raise revenue by taxing wealthy at a higher rate than low and middle class people.

A little background about the state income tax:

In 1932, mounting public debt during the Great Depression and a mass public outcry forced the Illinois General Assembly to pass a graduated income tax.  However, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional on grounds that it violated the “uniformity” provision in the state constitution. Conservative corporate leaders had vigorously opposed all income taxes – graduated or flat rate. Afterwards, a regressive sales tax was enacted instead. At the time, R.C. Moore, executive secretary of the Illinois State Teachers Association (IEA/NEA’s precursor) stated:

“The income tax would be fair, easy to collect, based upon ability to pay, and could not easily be shifted to the consumer. But the general sales tax is shifted to the consumer and levies tribute on the bread and shoes a poor unemployed man buys for his children with the last dollar of his savings. Even worse, if he has spent his last dollar and finds a store that will give him credit for a time, he is charge the sales tax even on what he buys on credit.” 

In 1969, Illinois passed a flat rate income tax.  A constitutional amendment is needed to enact a graduated income tax.

Governor Rauner’s solution to the state’s financial problems is to lower labor costs through his “Turnaround Agenda” which includes proposals to undermine unions, cut employment benefits for working people and provide tax breaks that would benefit wealthy businessmen like himself.

Rauner’s cynical, anti-worker agenda is best highlighted by his position on the minimum wage.  Illinois has a minimum hourly wage that is $1 higher than the $7.25 federal rate.  Prior to running for office, he supported the repeal of all minimum wage laws.

Early in his 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Rauner proposed that Illinois should lower its minimum wage to the federal standard.  That proposal went over like a lead balloon.  He quickly dropped that position.  In his first State of the State message before the General Assembly, he received mocking laughter when he proposed a $10 minimum wage phased in at 25-cent increments over seven years, but only if it included his “business friendly reforms.”

J.B. Pritzker is very critical of Rauner’s anti-worker agenda.  He supports a $15/hour living wage law and union collective bargaining rights.  Pritzker wants to expand health care coverage for the elderly and low-income people.  He is calling for “equal pay for equal work” and vigorous enforcement of wage theft laws to protect women and others vulnerable to unscrupulous employers.  Most importantly, Pritzker supports a graduated income tax that would raise taxes on wealthy individuals in order to generate revenue to solve the state’s fiscal problems and provide property tax relief.  Pritzker’s income tax proposal would notraise taxes on low and middle-income voters.

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On the issues

Here’s a look at where Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner stand on the issues affecting workers and working families in Illinois.

MINIMUM WAGE

Pritzker – Raise it to $15/hour

Rauner – Vetoed a 15/hour minimum wage bill

TAXES

Pritzker – Supports a graduated income tax that would raise taxes on wealthy individuals like Rauner and Pritzker. He also would provide property tax relief once the graduated income tax is enacted

Rauner – Proposes $1billion cut in income taxes in addition to property tax relief. Less revenue will make the state’s fiscal problems worse.

GOVERNMENT JOBS

Pritzker – Opposes privatization of government work.

Rauner – Privatize public jobs to low-wage, private companies.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS

Pritzker – Protect pensions of teachers and public employees.

Rauner – Cut benefits.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

Pritzker – Supports the social safety net for workers.

Rauner – Cut benefits.

WORKERS COMPENSATION FOR
EMPLOYEES INJURED ON THE JOB

Prtizker – Maintain benefits.

Rauner – Cut benefits

LABOR UNIONS

Pritzker – Fully supports worker rights protections and collective bargaining.

Rauner – “Turnaround Agenda” seeks to undermine unionism and cut labor costs and wages.

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