The people of Illinois have spoken: With the election of Democrat J.B. Pritzker as their next governor, they have eagerly welcomed the restoration of one-party rule in Illinois.
Pritzker enjoys the same three liberties that Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner enjoyed four years ago:
Pritzker knows that his only debt is to the voters who elected him. Having invested more than $160 million of his own money in this race, he didn’t need a penny of funding from the Democratic Party. The first time someone burbles to him about “what we achieved” by defeating Gov. Rauner, Pritzker is free to look him or her in the eye and say, “We?” Imagine the liberty of not having to worry about what anyone thinks except for Illinois voters.
Imagine, too, Pritzker’s liberty in having a job he doesn’t need. We hope he’ll be a hands-on governor who rescues this state from its downward spiral of recent decades. But if he doesn’t like the gig and decides to be one-term-and-done, he’s free to walk away. Rauner now can choose new ventures and adventures; Pritzker can have the same freedom when he chooses.
And if he wants to spend it, Pritzker still has plenty of money to begin electing a new cast of characters in Springfield.
Or maybe Pritzker likes the current cast just fine. House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton surely hope Pritzker will give them what they haven’t reliably had: a governor’s signature on whatever they put before him. Pritzker may have other plans.
Pritzker inherits their long legacy of unbalanced budgets, overpromised pensions and a tax burden that helps other states poach Illinois employers. With his oath of office in January, Illinois’ 43rd governor will join in the ownership of all that.
We hope Pritzker isn’t as casual about tax increases as he seemed during the campaign. Ever-higher taxation risks aggravating the Illinois Exodus — the flight of Illinois residents and employers to other states for their educations or their careers. Not only do those refugees take their taxable income with them, they also raise the tax burden on those of us still here. Pritzker will be an Illinois hero if he parlays his victory and Democratic majorities in the legislature to restore government solvency and a jobs-friendly economy here.
Gov.-elect Pritzker’s Illinois still faces problems dating from the last experience with one-party rule. That was from 2003 until 2015, when Democrats controlled everything but soybean yields. Illinois finances spiraled downward, and Rauner’s term delivered more bad news: Unfunded pension obligations that exploded from $43 billion to $100 billion in the Democratic years now total some $130 billion. A $7 billion backlog of unpaid state bills remains, despite a $6 billion taxpayer-backed bond sale in 2017 to pay it down. And annual spending continues to outpace revenue.
That is the Illinois that Pritzker has pledged to fix. It’s also the Illinois that provokes a question we heard countless times during the campaign: Why would anybody want this job?
This is the seat Pritzker waited for, the job he invested a fortune to win. As he knows, it’s now on him to fix Illinois. We wish him every success.
-- Chicago Tribune