Daniel Biss, Chris Kennedy & JB Pritzker on Illinois’ budget & reforms

Those asking questions at the 2018 IL Democratic Party Primary gubernatorial candidate forums seem allergic to asking the candidates about their plans for significant state budget spending reforms, or even the broad parameters of targeted budget spending and revenue levels, going forward.

This was true at the most recent forum, sponsored by ABC-7 Chicago, Univision Chicago  and the League of Women Voters, Illinois on Friday night, and the prior one sponsored by Politico, WBEZ and UChicago’s Institute of Politics on Thursday night.

But, that wasn't completely true at the candidate press conferences following Friday night's ABC-7 Forum.

However, when given the chance, the three major Democratic Party primary gubernatorial candidates seemed reluctant to articulate specific, major fiscal spending reforms or targeted IL budgeted revenue and expenditure levels, going forward.

Take a listen to Messrs. Biss, Kennedy and Pritzker, answering questions from Berkowitz at their Friday night pressers:

Jeff Berkowitz: Daniel, since Pensions, Medicaid and Education account for about ¾ of the Illinois budget, would you favor any reforms in any of those areas to either cut those areas of spending or restrain the rate of growth

State Senator and 2018 Democratic Party primary gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss answering press conference questions

State Senator and 2018 Democratic Party primary gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss answering press conference questions

Sen. Biss: Well, I talked several times about, for example, the consolidated pension funds, there are things that can be done to achieve efficiencies in state government-without question—but if we are going to have a budget that is balanced and sustainable and a government that actually works for modern society, we need a tax system that is designed for a modern economy- that is what I am fighting for [By that, Senator Biss apparently means that he thinks that Illinois needs progressive income and financial transaction taxes that by his calculation would boost annual state revenue and spending by about 13 billion dollars, or 35% of current revenue]

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Berkowitz: $37 billion are the revenue and expenses for Illinois' Fiscal Year 2017 budget, what do you think you would look for, if you were governor- in terms of targeted revenue and expenses, for the fiscal year 2018 and 2019 budgets. 

2018 Democratic Party Primary Gubernatorial Candidate Chris Kennedy entering a candidate forum at WTTW's studios

2018 Democratic Party Primary Gubernatorial Candidate Chris Kennedy entering a candidate forum at WTTW's studios

Chris Kennedy: I don’t know what Governor Rauner will do in terms of a balanced budget this year so it’s hard to predict what to do for the next couple of years.

Berkowitz: What would you like to see done?

Chris Kennedy [avoids answering and turns to another media member’s question, to which he responds at length about an arcane University of Illinois governance issue]

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Jeff Berkowitz: Since Medicaid, pensions and education account for about ¾ of the Illinois State budget, would you advocate any specific reforms in those three areas and how much do you think those reforms would save the State of Illinois?

2018 Democratic Party Primary gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker awaiting the start of a candidate forum at WTTW's studios

2018 Democratic Party Primary gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker awaiting the start of a candidate forum at WTTW's studios

JB Pritzker: We probably don’t have enough time to address all three of those [spending categories] because we have got some pretty major plans as you may know to deal with each one of those but let’s take pensions, just for an example. We have a challenge in the State of Illinois that, you know, we’re going to step up the payments earlier into the pension system and then flatten out those payments over time to make sure that we are able to pay them and that we re-amortize to make sure we are stepping up so that retirees don’t suffer. We will be able to do that- I think that is completely doable. Our pension system- unfortunately, Bruce Rauner is convincing people that our pensions can’t be paid- you know, we should cut them. I completely disagree with that. [This answer doesn’t articulate any pension reforms that reduce what economists refer to as “The present value cost,” of future IL pension payments,which is usually what public policy makers and thinkers mean by "pension reforms."].

But perhaps JB Pritzker will accept Berkowitz’s personal offer, extended to him on Friday night to tape the half hour show, “Public Affairs,” where Pritzker could outline, among other items, his reform proposals in detail. That offer has been extended to all five major candidates (sometimes thru their handlers) for Governor, Democratic & Republican, a proposal by which Public Affairs would come to the candidate’s office, thus keeping the total time expenditure for the candidate to 30 minutes. So far, no takers. Hopefully, Pritzker will call Berkowitz and lead the way for other Gubernatorial candidates to appear on “Public Affairs.”  The viewers and voters  would love to see that kind of“Leading by example.”

Press conferences, held after Friday night’s Democratic Party gubernatorial primary forum at ABC-7’s Chicago Studios, 190 N. State in the Chicago Loop, March 2, 2018

 

 

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