Ep. 46: Pritzker for president?

Ep. 46: Pritzker for president?

Speculation is brewing that Gov. Pritzker is testing the waters for a presidential run. What would a Pritzker presidency look like? Let his Illinois record serve as a guide. Austin Berg joins the Policy Shop to talk through Pritzker’s failures on budget, tax and economic policy. Learn more by subscribing to the Policy Shop newsletter at illin.is/newsletter.

This edition of The Policy Shop is by Adam Schuster, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Whispers that Democrats may be turning on President Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election have turned to rumbles, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker appears to be testing the waters for a run of his own. What would a President Pritzker bring to the White House? His track record in Illinois points to overspending, tax hikes and an underperforming economy.

No go for Joe? Outlets from The Washington Post to The New York Times have run pieces recently reflecting a growing unease about President Biden’s age hindering another presidential run. While his recent COVID diagnosis seems mild, some are certainly taking the opportunity to challenge the idea Biden is a safe choice for Democrats in 2024.

According to Monmouth University polling, Americans’ top concern is inflation, followed closely by gas prices. Pritzker has done little to help Illinoisans with the impacts of inflation and has greatly worsened pain at the pump.

Pritzker platform. What can we learn from Pritzker’s track record about what he’d bring to the race? Illinois is not known for having a limited, effective or efficient government … or for having low taxes, both of which are a high priority for Americans struggling under record inflation. Under Pritzker, job losses have accelerated and more people have left the state. It isn’t surprising, given the wide array of tax and fee hikes the governor has approved.

The economy.

  • Illinois has the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest, fourth highest in the nation at 4.5% in June.
  • Illinois is the last in the nation for growth in businesses that create jobs.
  • New business formation activity was stagnant in Illinois in 2021, according to data released Feb. 14 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Illinois experienced the smallest increase in 2021 of any state for new business applications that are most likely to create jobs.
  • Illinois has one of the lowest business formation rates in the Midwest.
  • Racial employment gaps that were wider than the U.S. average, even before COVID, have grown substantially more than the rest of the nation. White and Hispanic Illinoisans were 25% more likely to lose their jobs than their national counterparts, while Black Illinoisans were 50% more likely to lose their jobs than other Black Americans because of COVID-19 and state-mandated lockdowns.
  • Illinois is the third-most regulated state in the nation.
  • A TV ad for Pritzker’s re-election campaign credits him for providing a “life raft” for Illinois’ small businesses. But 35% of the state’s pre-pandemic small businesses were still closed a year into COVID-19. Worse, Illinois saw the third-most restaurant closures of any state during the height of the pandemic. The restaurant and bar industry has been slower to recover here.

Tax burden and budget.

  • The 24 taxes and fees imposed during Pritzker’s term have led to about $2,721 more in taxes for the average family, including doubling the gas tax and increasing vehicle registration fees.
  • Illinois can’t balance its budget; the state has not passed a balanced budget since 2001, and that includes each year of Pritzker’s tenure as governor.

Property taxes and housing.

  • Illinois had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation during the first half of 2022.
  • Illinois has had the third-lowest growth in home values during the past two years.
  • The median homeowner has paid $2,282 more in property taxes during Pritzker’s term as governor.

Population decline.

  • In 2021, Illinois saw record-setting population decline of 114,000 residents driven solely by people leaving the state – the second-worst population decline in the nation.
  • Illinois is the only state where population decline has gotten worse for eight consecutive years.
  • Only New York saw a greater population decline than Illinois in 2021.

What we need back home. The easiest way to fix Illinois’ economy is to address spending crises (pensions) and do everything possible to provide relief to taxpayers and businesses. Officially, the state of Illinois estimates it has $139 billion in pension debt, more than anywhere else in the country. A more realistic estimate by Moody’s Investors Service, using rigorous accounting standards, assumes the debt is closer to $313 billion. The common-sense solution for taxpayers and retirees alike is constitutional pension reform, which could fully fund pensions while preserving all benefits already earned. Pritzker has refused to support it. The best he’s done is a teensy, one-year property tax rebate, six-month delay of the next gas tax hike and one-year suspension of the grocery tax.

Temporary relief is not how to help families.

If Pritzker hopes to capture the Democratic nod, he’ll need to fix his economic record. Otherwise, all he’ll have to boast is a record of tax hikes, economic decline and government overreach.

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