Where suburbs stand on Pritzker's plan for progressive tax, legalizing marijuana

From legalizing marijuana and sports gambling to sweeping out the flat tax, Gov. J.B. Pritzker's $39 billion budget plan touched nerves among Republicans and gave hope to some suburban constituencies starved for funding.

“It took decades to get us into this mess. It will take at least several years to get us out of it,” the Democratic governor said Wednesday in his debut budget speech. Daunting numbers include $15 billion in debts and an expected $3.2 billion budget deficit.

Among Pritzker's ideas grating on GOP members was instituting a graduated income tax to replace the 4.95 percent tax on everyone. “It is not fair that I pay the same tax rate as a teacher, a child care worker, a police officer or a nurse,” the Hyatt hotel heir said, predicting it would take 18 months to change the status quo.

“Taxes, taxes, and more taxes,” is how Barrington Hills Republican Rep. David Sweeney characterized the plan.

“Nothing in Gov. Pritzker's budget helps decrease the tax burden,” Republican state Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville said. The proposal “relies on taxes from policies that have not yet been debated and voted on.”

Pritzker also advocated legalizing and taxing sports gambling as a way of raising $200 million along with fees.

“I'm open to looking at it as part of a capital bill,” McSweeney said. But any changes must be fair and ensure “insiders” don't benefit, he added.

It's unsure what the move would mean for casinos like Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. “We look forward to participating in the process,” said Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Interactive, the parent company of Rivers.

Pritzker urged lawmakers to expedite legalization of recreational marijuana this session, saying it could generate $170 million.

Not so fast, said Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon.

“We only have to look at other states like Colorado and Washington ... that have had the benefit of a couple years of experience where traffic fatalities have increased, (and) violent crime has increased,” McMahon said Tuesday.

The state's recent budget stalemate shrank funding to colleges and universities. Pritzker pledged to increase the Monetary Award Program by $50 million — welcome news to Harper College where 1,700 students received MAP grants in 2017-2018.

“MAP grants help make college possible for many low-income students,” Harper College President Ken Ender said.

Meanwhile, Democratic state Sen. Cristina Castro of Elgin supported Pritzker's guarantee of increased dollars for mental health.

“With this funding (the Elgin Mental Health Center) can continue toward reducing the recidivism and overall incarceration rates of mentally ill individuals,” she said.

Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said the municipality was “optimistic” about the governor's vision but urged him “to avoid any dramatic changes to local government revenues.”

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Harry Hitzeman contributed to this report.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his budget address Wednesday to a joint session of the General Assembly. Associated Press
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