SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Billionaire J.B. Pritzker will take the Oath of Office Monday, officially beginning his term as Illinois’ 43rd Governor.
Pritzker and his wife greeted people at the Old State Capitol Sunday, including prominent Democratic officials like U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
"Pritzker ran a campaign that told me he was ready to lead this state — every corner of this state — and to do his best to challenge these issues that a lot of people have been unable to solve," Sen. Durbin said. "It’ll be a touchy assignment, but if he’s honest with the people across this state and sets a plan that moves us forward, I’m gonna help him in every way I can."
Also on hand was former state Representative David Harris, a Republican who Pritzker named Director of Revenue.
"He has more energy, more enthusiasm and more of a positive attitude than anybody I’ve met in a long time and I think that’s going to do wonders for the State of Illinois," Harris said.
Juliana Stratton will also take the oath tomorrow and start her term as Lieutenant Governor. A candidate for Chicago mayor and friends with Pritzker, Comptroller Susana Mendoza will also return after she was re-elected in November.
"Over the course of him running for the governorship, of course we became much closer. I’m very excited about the direction that Illinois is finally going to start as of tomorrow," Mendoza said.
Pritzker spent around $170 million of his fortune to win the office, inheriting the state’s many problems. As governor, he says his goals include lifting wages, growing the economy, attracting businesses and lowering the cost of health care. It's an ambitious agenda for a state faced with tremendous problems.
With $7.5 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state, and the highest pension debt in the nation. Not to mention the strain the two-year budget impasse placed on social service providers and higher education.
To accomplish his agenda, Pritzker will work Democratic supermajorities in both the House and Senate. But Pritzker has sought input from Republicans, appointing former Governor Jim Edgar to his transition team. But the honeymoon will likely end when Pritzker proposes new spending to pay for his agenda, and tries to move to a graduated income tax system.
As of 12:01 tomorrow, Illinois has a new Governor. Bruce and Diana Rauner plan to attend the swearing.
On Friday, we sat down with Mr. Pritzker in Chicago to talk about his agenda. Here are some of our questions and his responses:
What's different for the state of Illinois Monday at noon?
Well, the biggest difference is that we're going to turn the ship of state in the right direction and begin propelling it in that right direction.
The State of Illinois has been damaged over the last four years by intransigence, by having no budget. We need responsible government. We need stability in this state. We need a balanced budget. Those are all things that we'll be focusing on.
Do you really think [Republicans are] going to cooperate and work with you?
Indeed I do, and I think it's better to talk across the aisle to end the hyperpartisanship that's existed in Springfield to focus on actually problem solving for the state. It's been too long since that really was the focus of Springfield, I'm hoping to bring that kind of relationship back.