Pritzker sees legalized marijuana next year, but wage hike, graduated tax could take longer

Legalizing recreational marijuana was among Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker's election pledges, and a bill in support is likely to break in the General Assembly early in 2019, he said.

You can also expect a gambling expansion plan to surface in the coming legislative session, as the state wrestles with balancing its budget, Pritzker said Friday.

In the 32 days since his election defeat of incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Chicago Democrat has been busy, convening 10 advisory groups on issues from justice to education to transportation.

A number of suburbanites and Republicans are serving on those committees, and Pritzker explained he's trying to work across the aisle.

“The days of hyper-partisanship are behind us,” Pritzker said as he headed out to a local Democratic event in Glen Ellyn Friday.

That statement will be tested when a bill legalizing marijuana emerges, likely early on in the new session.

“I don't know if it will be easy” to pass, Pritzker said. But “I favor it and I think the majority of the people in the state of Illinois favor it.”

Other states like Colorado that legalized pot are grappling with various implications such as how it impairs driving.

If such legislation passes, Pritzker acknowledged that it's crucial to “set up a regulatory system to make sure we're implementing it in a safe and organized fashion and creating jobs while we do it.”

Pritzker, after attending Friday's Democratic Party of DuPage County holiday party, will head out with running mate Juliana Stratton on a three-day “thank you tour” that includes stops in tornado-striken Taylorville, Bradley University and the county jail in Peoria, and union halls in Decatur and Champaign, as well as stops in Marion, Effingham, West Frankfort, Caseyville, Springfield, Galesburg, Rock Island and Rockford.

One of the governor's first tasks after his Jan. 14 swearing-in will be to present a budget proposal in February.

“I think there are certainly opportunities to bring in revenues by looking at sports betting (or) looking at expanding casino gaming in the state,” Pritzker said. “All things are on the table.”

He credited Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady with proposing additional gambling to help fund infrastructure and indicated a long-awaited capital bill could emerge next year.

“I think everybody's in agreement we need to invest in infrastructure.”

In 2017, Rauner vetoed a bill seeking an increase in the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $15 by 2022.

Pritzker has said a $15 rate is a priority, but Friday he emphasized using a phased-in approach. “There's a lot of different options. ... I'd like to see some protections for small businesses so they're not as severely impacted as larger businesses.”

One central platform plank for the Hyatt hotel heir was offering a graduated income tax, which he said would make the very wealthy pay more and relieve the middle class.

Next year, his administration will begin to “educate legislators and educate the public because I really believe in the interests of fairness that a graduated income tax is vital.

But “it's unclear to me whether something will come to a vote” in this first session, Pritzker said.

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Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comGov.-elect J.B. Pritzker applauds the local Democrats at the DuPage Democratic Holiday Party in Glen Ellyn as he gave a speech thanking them for their support on Friday night.
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