Divide Illinois into 3 or 4 states? Democrat running for governor says yes

Democratic candidate for governor Robert Marshall takes a conservative view of a graduated income tax, a liberal one on same-sex marriages and is an original on proposals to divide Illinois into three or four states and hit out-of-state drivers with tolls.

Illinois has "13 million people and only two senators ... we're shortchanged ... cheated," Marshall, 74, told the Daily Herald editorial board Tuesday.

"If you divide the place up into smaller states - people will have better representation, they'll have more senators," added the Burr Ridge resident who faces five Democratic rivals in the March 20 primary.

His three-way partition plan would divide Illinois into Chicago, the suburbs and downstate. An alternate four-way split would make states out of Chicago, the suburbs west from Chicago to I-355, the rest of Illinois north of I-80, and the part of Illinois south of I-80.

His mind isn't made up, but "I'm veering toward three states," Marshall said.

Marshall acknowledged he has not done much financial analysis on the scheme but theorized breaking up the state would ease budget deficit and pension debt problems.

"Each state could start over with new liabilities and bills," he noted. "Pensions are all divided up, what they pay toward those things is up to them, everything's negotiable."

The U.S. Constitution mandates that no new states may be formed without the consent of a state's legislature or Congress.

He hasn't run it up the flagpole with lawmakers, but "there are a lot of people downstate who really like this idea," Marshall noted.

Marshall is running against Democrats state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, Madison County Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber, Chicago activist Tio Hardiman, Kenilworth developer Chris Kennedy and Chicago billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, who have been invited to separate meetings with the editorial board.

Marshall campaigned for Democratic President John F. Kennedy in high school, switched to Republican once he "started to earn some money," then left the GOP during the Iraq War. He was a Burr Ridge village trustee and ran in the 2016 primary to be the Democratic nominee in the 6th Congressional District.

Marshall supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights, although he opposes using tax funds for abortions.

While the majority of his primary opponents support a graduated income tax, Marshall does not.

"For people who are doing well, it will be a tax increase," he said. "It will be a middle-class tax increase."

Instead, Marshall advocates legalizing marijuana to bring in new revenues and reduce violence in Chicago.

Decriminalizing possession of cocaine and morphine would also decrease crime and allow addicts to be treated, Marshall said. "If you want to solve the drug problem, this is the way to go. Let the medical community handle it and not the drug pushers."

Another source of funds could be charging out-of-state drivers tolls when they enter Illinois on major highways, he suggested.

Currently, "it's possible for people to drive through the whole state and not pay anything," Marshall said. "If we had toll booths at entrances (to Illinois), people could pay when they go in and not pay when they go out."

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  Democratic candidate for governor Robert Marshall, a 74-year-old Burr Ridge doctor, discusses his campaign with the Daily Herald editorial board. Joe Lewnard/
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