‘We got a lot done’: Gov. JB Pritzker discusses first year in office

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — 2019 was a big year for Gov. JB Pritzker.

The Democratic controlled legislature passed nearly every items on the rookie governor’s wish list. He recently sat down with WGN to discuss his first year in office.

"We got a lot done. The thing that I`m proudest of here is that so much got done,” Pritzker said.

Accomplishments include:

  • Winning approval for his $40 billion spending plan.
  • Raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
  • His $45 billion capital plan.
  • The legalization of sports betting and recreational marijuana.

On Jan. 1, recreational marijuana becomes legal. But some are concerned about the program.

The first licenses to sell pot have been awarded to the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries, businesses that are all white-owned. African American aldermen pushed for a delay, but it ultimately passed through city council.

"I think may of the people who took the position that they did opposing starting on Jan 1, didn't really understand the bill,” Pritzker said. " They didn't read it completely or didn't understand all the provisions that are really focused on social equity. If you delay the Jan. 1 start, you actually delay the social equity provisions of the bill.”

Revenue generated from the first dispensaries to will fund low-interest loans to help minorities businesses get off the ground.

Political corruption is casting a dark cloud over Pritzker’s first year.

There are multiple federal investigations involving Democrats, including the wide-ranging probe of ComEd and associates of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

"I'm disgusted frankly by people who don't get it right who are acting in their own self-interests,” Pritzker said. "I've called out any and everybody that`s been indicted or under direct investigation.”

There’s still things left to do, like the Chicago casino. Springfield approved it this fall.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked lawmakers to change the tax structure to make it more attractive for an operator. But in the end, there was not enough time to sort out issues during the veto session.

"It takes a lot of work to get these things through the legislature,” Pritzker said. "It takes time, you gotta get to know people to convince them of your position on these issues.”

Pritzker is paying attention to national politics, including President Trump`s impeachment. In 2018, Pritzker was a big supporter of Lauren Underwood, the freshman Congresswoman, who flipped a reliably Republican district.

WGN asked Pritzker if he thinks Underwood's vote for impeachment will put in her in danger next year.

"She’s been a great U.S. representative for that district,” Pritzker said. “So I think she`s going to win in a landslide.”

Next up for the governor, ethics reform.

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