Pritzker’s pocketbook primes pump to prepare for 2020 progressive tax push

Illinois Capitol News

ILLINOIS (NEXSTAR) — Governor J.B. Pritzker, the richest elected official in the United States, set a national self-funding record in 2018 when he pumped $166.5 million into his own campaign to win the job. Now, the Democrat is spending even more money to get his job done.

Over the weekend, Pritzker cut a check for five million dollars to the ‘Vote Yes for Fairness’ ballot initiative committee, a campaign fund that can raise unlimited amounts of money, but cannot spread that money around to other candidates or political organizations.

Quentin Fulks, Pritzker’s former deputy campaign manager, is listed as the chairman and treasurer of the new fund. In a phone call on Wednesday, Fulks said he does not expect the governor to fund this effort on his own.

“We’re going to try to solicit funds from anybody,” Fulks said, describing what is at stake in a pivotal political battle he says will decide the future of the state’s fiscal footing and budget stability.

“I assume others will step up and contribute to the cause,” Pritzker said. “There are lots of supporters of that endeavor.”

Pritzker needs 60 percent of Illinois voters to abolish the current flat income tax and approve of his progressive income tax structure next November in order to enact his single biggest campaign promise.

Without a progressive income tax, Fulks warns state lawmakers would be left to consider drastic measures, such as a move to, “cut social services by 15 percent or raise taxes on everybody by 20 percent.”

State Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill who chairs a budget committee, said on Wednesday that without “a structural change to our tax code, we are going to be doing the same thing that we have been doing for years. I think it will be a repeat of the four years under Governor Rauner with budgets.”

Pritzker’s administration estimates his progressive tax rates would reap an extra $3.4 billion in annual revenues.

During a press event in Chicago on Wednesday morning, Pritzker explained why he opened his pocketbook nearly a year before the decisive election.

“Well, certainly, there has been a threat by lots of well-funded, right wing organizations and individuals to preserve the unfair tax system that exists today,” he said. “But look it was important to me to step up and support something that I have been talking about since day one of my campaign, something that I think is very important for the state.”

Several groups opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy are lining up to prepare a dark money onslaught to batter the Governor’s progressive income tax.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has already come out against the proposal, and its President predicts more groups will soon join their ranks.

“When I saw that [Pritzker] put $5 million into his PAC, I think that indicates he’s afraid he’s going to lose,” Maisch said in a phone call Wednesday night.

“Illinoisans are incredibly skeptical of the competence of Illinois state government right now,” he said. “We think taxpayers are going to say, ‘We’re not going to send a whole lot of money to Springfield under the current circumstances.'”

Maisch and his allies are closely studying the campaigns to defeat a progressive tax push in Colorado, where Democrats put the question on the ballot three elections in a row, but voters rejected the idea all three times.

In the most recent election, “Colorado tied it to education,” Maisch said, “which is almost always the most popular priority for spending, and they still couldn’t get it done. Illinois has no tie to where the dollars are going to go. So you don’t know if it’s going to go for new bronze doors for the statehouse, or to pay the light bill, or to pay for plane trips out of state. We are confident we are going to win.”

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