Here’s the transcript of lively Rauner-Pritzker debate at the Sun-Times

SHARE Here’s the transcript of lively Rauner-Pritzker debate at the Sun-Times
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Tom McNamee, Sun-Times Editorial Board: Hi. Welcome to our debate between Governor Bruce Rauner and  Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker. Thanks for being here both this morning.

It’s great to have you. First we want to tell those folks who might be watching this either on YouTube, Facebook or on our website that if you’re following the conversation on Twitter, you can use the hashtag: #SunTimesLive. And we’d love to hear what you have to say, so please do so. The hashtag is #SunTimesLive.

We hope to have a really terrific debate. We’ll try to keep it really tight. We’ll ask both candidates to avoid their stump speeches and any filibustering— not that you ever would do that, but we have to ask—

Gov. Bruce Rauner: Who would want to do that? <<laughs>>

TM: At the same time it’s really important that we ask you to also have a real conversation. So we hope you’ll jump right in there with thoughtful, provocative things to say.

And first I want to introduce, for everybody, who’s asking the questions today. We are the Sun-Times editorial board, plus a couple of reporters. I’m Tom McNamee, editorial page editor, and right here to my left is Chris Fusco, he’s the editor. And then we have Mary Mitchell, columnist. And next to Mary Mitchell is Tom Frisbee, he’s a member of the editorial board and an editorial writer. And then we have Marlen Garcia, also an editorial writer and a member of the board, and Lorraine Forte, also an editorial writer and a member of the editorial board. And I believe next to her column is Mark Brown, and then Tina Sfondeles, political reporter for The Sun-Times.

And then of course, once again, we have Gov. Bruce Rauner, and we have businessman J.B. Pritzker.

We’re gonna go right to the news on the first question. We had a lot of thought to what the first question was going to be and it’s going to be this:

Several states in the last few years have passed laws strengthening protections against sexual harassment. In Washington, Tennessee Vermont and Maryland, they have banned nondisclosure agreements as a condition of employment, so that employees can talk openly about their experience in the workplace. And in Maryland companies with more than 50 employees now must report the number of sexual harassment claims they settle. They also must report the number of sexual harassment claims they have settled over the last 10 years. So the question we have for you today: Other states have taken other measures, and it’s an interesting trend. Both of you men have great experience, not only in public life, but also in private business. As an employer in those private businesses, have you ever required an employee to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would cover allegations of sexual harassment? That’s number one. Number two: If you were elected governor — or reelected — what steps would you take to strengthen protections against sexual harassment in Illinois? Governor, would you like to start first?

BR: Sure. I’ve never signed an NDA in my life to cover sexual harassment or anything remotely related to that. I have no personal NDAs whatsoever. In terms of the state of Illinois, one of my first acts as governor was to lay out ethics policies for my administration, and in there was a strict policy around sexual harassment: Reporting it, prosecuting it, and having a zero-tolerance policy within our administration.

I’ve recommended similar legislation to be enacted in the General Assembly. Unfortunately what’s come to light over the last three years is there has been extensive sexual harassment and mistreatment of women, and others, in the legislature, in the Democratic Party, and Speaker Madigan has been his most senior, most trusted officers and lieutenants in the Democratic Party in the General Assembly be accused of sexual harassment, and many have stepped down as a result. My challenger, Mr. Pritzker was silent for over a week, wouldn’t even say Mr. Madigan’s name during those allegations and investigations. Mr. Pritzker has not been a strong advocate and champion for women on these issues, whereas I have. And I look forward to changing the culture in government. Changing the culture in ways that we can stop this mistreatment, stop the sexual harassment and abuse. And I support the legislation that has been recently introduced that requires disclosure of any NDA that might touch on these issues in any way. That has been introduced to the General Assembly in recent weeks.

TM: So let me be clear about two things, then I’ll go on to Mr. Pritzker. First of all you’ve never signed an NDA, but you’ve also never required one of an employee—

BR: Correct. That is correct.

TM: Great. Secondly, is there any specific legislation that now — that is not now current, that you would propose or sign? For instance, in Maryland and these other states, they actually have a ban now on NDAs for businesses of more than 50 employees. Would you support or propose such legislation here in Illinois, or something else very specific?

BR: I would support that legislation that you outlined. Our administration is actually reviewing best practices and best policies in other states and in other settings, both in the corporate world as well as the public service world. I believe that we need to take strong action on these issues. Our general assembly has been slow to act, and I’ll say that Speaker Madigan didn’t even fill the legislative inspector general role for three years. There was no way for a woman who was mistreated to come — to ask for an investigation. He specifically did not even have that office filled. And as a result, many harassment cases were never investigated. And I’ve talked to many women who feel like even today, they are uncomfortable coming forward in the state government, in the legislature, because they believe that the system is rigged, that Speaker Madigan’s control is too strong, and his oversight of the legislative inspector general and the system is such that they will not get justice if they come forward.

Marlen Garcia, Sun-Times Editorial Board: Did you ask him to fill it? The position? Did you ever advocate for it? Press him? Push him?

BR: Many of us have in our administration. There is no reason — no reason — for that office to stay empty. None. And it’s the job of the speaker to fill that position. And to have it empty, for years— there’s just no excuse. None. It shows the lack of concern for carrying out justice on all of these issues.

TM: So, Mr. Pritzker.

J.B. Pritzker: I have never signed NDAs, or required NDAs, that prevent people from reporting sexual harassment, or keeping that silent. In fact in our campaign, we’ve done — and in our business, we’ve done sexual harassment training, so that people understand what’s not allowed in the workplace, but also what the reporting mechanisms need to be. That’s something that needs to be strengthened in Springfield.

Women who come forward bravely need to be believed. And after that, they need to have their claims investigated, and — by an independent investigator. And then we’ve got to make sure that those who are responsible for the sexual harassment — or sometimes sexual assault— are held accountable. Now, I really believe that this hasn’t happened enough in Springfield. And I have called out Speaker Madigan and I have called out both Democrats and Republicans, because this doesn’t just happen on one side of the aisle. There’s sexual harassment in the Republican Party and people should be held responsible there, too. In our administration, Julianna Stratton’s and mine, we intend to have independent investigations when people come forward. We intend to make sure that people are held accountable for their actions if they are perpetrating sexual harassment, or god forbid, sexual assault.

TM: Now I know sexual harassment’s an issue that doesn’t necessarily know party boundaries, but at the same time Speaker Madigan is perhaps the single most powerful person in Springfield — with all respect, Governor—

BR: I-I won’t disagree with that statement.

TM: And therefore what he does is more important than anybody else. Would you agree that he has fallen short, though, on handling the issue of sexual harassment?

JP: Yes, and I said so, and I — it took too long to have those allegations investigated.

BR: You took a week to even say it.

JP: I did call it out. The governor knows that, he is just playing politics with this. The fact is that in an era when we now have a #MeToo movement, a #TimesUp movement, it is critically important that we have processes for women to come forward and have those claims heard.

Chris Fusco, Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief: I’m glad we’re having our Speaker Madigan discussion upfront because that was going to be my subject of discussion, so let’s go there. And I was going to start with Gov. Rauner but actually Mr. Pritzker you provided us with a natural segue here. So if you’re elected, you’ll enter Springfield having never held any elected office, while Speaker Madigan holds the distinction of being the longest-serving House Speaker of any state legislature in the U.S. Obviously, by our discussion here, we also known as a bit of a polarizing figure, right. Historically, some blame him for the votes that led to our state’s massive pension debt, low credit ratings and other financial problems historically. Are you concerned the speaker has stood in the way of fiscal reforms in Illinois government? And what can you say to convince Illinoisans you won’t be his puppet, or under his thumb?

JB: Well, I’m independent. I’ve been independent my entire life. You’ve seen the things that I’ve accomplished during the course of my lifetime. They had nothing to do with the speaker of the house. That was expanding school breakfast to 230,000 more kids in the state of Illinois. Thousands of kids getting early childhood education, and child — and making sure they have child care. And you know that I helped to build — in fact I’d led the building of 1871 and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. All of those things that I’ve been engaged in — and they’re all public policy oriented — are things that I’ve done as an independent leader. I will not change when I become governor. I will remain an independent leader.

Now I believe that Speaker Madigan has made mistakes over the years. And that we need to change the way business is done in Springfield. I think you want somebody who is truly independent. You want somebody who is willing to stand up. But you also want somebody who’s willing to work with the leadership in Springfield to get things done. Because the biggest challenge we’ve got today is that we’ve had a governor who has been utterly intransigent: Unwilling to work with people. Unwilling to work with the mayor of the city of Chicago, the speaker of the House. He’s been unwilling to work with leaders in Springfield to get anything done, so no budget for two years — longer than any state ever in the history of the United States. A third year where he vetoed the budget. He walked out of the room, unwilling to get budgets done, and people suffered all across the state of Illinois.

You want somebody who is willing to stand up when it’s is the right thing to do, but also, stay in the room to get the job done. Particularly on a budget, which is a moral document.

Mary Mitchell, Sun-Times Editorial Board: So can you give us an example of your standing up when an issue that you felt was wrong— Tell us an example of when you stood up.

JP: Sure. Well, I’ll give you a couple of examples. One is that, you know, when the marriage equality issue was brought to the state of Illinois, in the legislature, this was a hard thing to get accomplished. You may recall that this was a very close vote. I really believe, and have my whole life, in LGBTQ rights, and equality, making sure that that people have the right to marry. And when this vote came up— and there were people in Springfield, leaders in Springfield, who stood against it— I was there working to get the last few votes passed, to get people to actually sign onto that legislation, so that was passed.

CF: Who were you working for? What group were you working for, or were you just there as your own self?

JP: I was asked by Equality Illinois, and others— you know I’ve been involved with the Illinois Federation for Human Rights, that’s the predecessor to Equality Illinois. That’s how long I’ve been involved in this issue. In fact, all the way back to when I was a kid, when my mother was fighting for LGBTQ rights. So you want somebody who’s willing to stand up when it’s the right thing to do. But you also want somebody who’s willing to compromise when that’s the right thing to do. And when people are losing their mental health services, and they’re losing substance abuse treatment, because Gov. Rauner is totally intransigent, it is time for people to recognize that you want someone who will actually get a budget done.

CF: Well let’s talk to Gov. Rauner about the speaker. Even though he’s brought him up several times already. You engaged in this political battle with the speaker that led to a two-year budget stalemate, dramatically increased the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, with the interest alone costing $1 billion — a staggering number. Do you regret that stalemate? And how will you go about negotiating with the speaker in the future, should you be reelected?

BR: That failure to have a budget for years is an act where every elected official let the people down. And I was part of it. But you know what, we have to change. And the simple fact is: Speaker Madigan had a super majority during the budget battle. He had the ability to pass any budget, at any time, with or without my support. He specifically did not want to have a balanced budget. He specifically passed a budget that was unconstitutional and out of balance the first year, didn’t even pass any budget at all the second year, and could have passed any one at any time. And he made this statement in 2015, the first year of the budget fight, that what he wanted was to have income taxes go up.

JP: But governor, that was three years—

RB: Please Mr. Pritzker, if you’re going to interrupt, talk about your 26 percent tax hike—

JP: Three years you went without introducing a balanced budget—

CF: Alright let’s get back to the question. In fairness to your response here, the people elected you to govern, right? And—

BR: To stand strong for what’s right. We have had decades — when I became governor, we had many billions of unpaid bills. We had some of the biggest pension liabilities in the country.

TM: We understand that. I guess the question is this: there is nothing about Mike Madigan should have surprised you. And so to put the blame on Mike Madigan is to put the blame on the person who actually entirely knew what it was all about, his insistence. Yet you failed to get a budget for two years. I don’t understand how you can— We’re looking to see what you would do differently.

BR: So what we’ve proven is that eventually, we can get a budget. We didn’t do it the way we should have. We didn’t get reforms in pensions, in government healthcare, in government consolidation. We got it through a tax hike, that I vetoed, because it was wrong. And Mr. Pritzker and Mr. Madigan are proposing another income tax hike on top of the one that we’ve already got, and 11 billion in new spending that Mr. Pritzker’s advocating—

TM: That’s  just, that’s not, that’s untrue. That’s not true—

BR: Tom, this is— oh come on. Tom, let’s be, let’s be crystal clear here. We will never have balanced budgets, we will never have a good future for the people of Illinois, if our economy continues to grow slower than our government spending. Tax hikes will never solve the problem. Mr. Pritzker’s only real policy recommendation is a tax hike with $11 billion in new spending, and that will break our state. People will flood out, businesses will flood out of the state. We have to change the structural reasons that our government spending grows faster than our economy. That’s what I’m working to do. A tax hike will only make that problem worse. And we have to stay strong on this point. We can’t just throw up our hands and quit and say, let’s raise taxes, give up on reforms and hold that that balances the budget. That will never balance the budget.

MM: We want to give you an opportunity to respond to that and then we need to move onto the next question.

JP: We need real reform. There’s no doubt about it. We do have big differences of opinion about taxes, that’s true. I believe that we need to change the tax system to make it fairer for people—

BR: You need to pay your taxes—

JP:  You want to lower, you want to lower— Governor, would you stop interrupting?

MM: We want to let him have his say so we can move to the next question.

JP: We need to lower taxes on the middle class and those striving to get to the middle class. We need to lower property taxes—

BR: And you’re going to raise them. You’re going to raise taxes on the middle class—

JP: Governor Rauner proposed a billion-dollar tax increase on property owners.


Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker met in a debate Oct. 9, 2018 at the Sun-Times. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker met in a debate Oct. 9, 2018 at the Sun-Times. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

TM: We’ll get to the graduated income tax a little later in that debate.

JP: But he’s talking about balancing the budget of the state of Illinois and I just want to respond that. It takes three things to balance the budget: You’ve got to look at revenue, you’ve got to look at efficiencies in state government and you’ve got to grow the economy. Gov. Rauner has done none of those things. He’s the biggest deficit spender in the history of the state—


MM: So gentlemen, gentlemen, this next question will give you an opportunity to just talk about your intentions. And this question is for both of you. Unfortunately, four of the last nine governors have gone to prison in Illinois for illegal acts—

BR: And we could have number five right here.

MM: You both have had ethical questions raised about you. Mr. Pritzker, your property tax breaks have come under scrutiny, and Gov. Rauner, your administration’s handling of the deadly Legionnaires disease is under investigation by the Illinois attorney general. What do these situations say about character?

I want to start with Mr. Pritzker. When does— And we’ve all seen the commercials so we know what you have to say about each other. We want you to talk about your character. When does a scheme cross the line and become fraud? And is it enough to expect that when a candidate follows the rules, voters should be satisfied with that and not see ethical lapses? Talk about what the whole property tax scheme—

JP: So this was, as you know, an internal memo that was leaked for political purposes—that was actually confirmed this morning, in another paper, leaked for political purposes. And it was about the problems that they’re having in the assessor’s office. And you know, I’ve said for a long time that there are real flaws in property tax system that we have to address.

I had a renovation project ongoing and that renovation project was stopped, because it was unclear whether the home would be sold, or put up for rent, and subsequently the renovation project was restarted. All the taxes that were assessed on the property were paid. But remember, this has been an effort by Gov. Rauner—again, confirmed this morning—to distract from his own property tax problems.

MM: I don’t want to talk about Gov. Rauner right now. I want to talk about whether or not you’re taking advantage of loopholes— How does that reflect on your character, that you were able to do that?

JP: Yeah, but remember also that 54,000 people in Cook County seek to have their property taxes reassessed, including, Gov.—

BR: Don’t insult the people of Cook County. He insults the people.

JP: Governor, you’re on the attack because—

BR: He cheated. He committed fraud. It’s nothing like—

JP: The assessments you sought—

MM: So does it. Ok so the question—The bottom line question is, are you saying that this does not reflect negatively on character?

JP: No. And in fact I am not saying that, I am telling you that the rules were followed here, and that there were inaccuracies in that report.

CF: Wait, there were inaccuracies in the Cook County Inspector General’s report?

JP: Yes, I have said that.

MM: So, Gov. Rauner: At what point does the mishandling of a crisis, such as the outbreak of Legionnaires disease at the Quincy Veterans Home, rise to the level of unethical or criminal? At what point?

BR: The tragedy at the veterans home is one of a legionella infection. It’s heartbreaking. I went there immediately. Our team went there immediately—

JP: Six days.

BR: Took action everyday to keep the veterans safe and the staff safe, and brought in immediately the national experts—

JP: Fourteen days.

BR: …and did what was necessary to mitigate the risks. And there’s been tens of hundreds of hours— hundreds of hours of testimony, review by outside groups, by the legislature, by the national experts at CDC, and at no point— And at no point, has anyone ever said there was any unethical or criminal behavior. Ever. At no point.

MM: So why do you think it’s being investigated?

BR: For political purposes. Mary, this is— let’s focus. Let’s— please, let me answer this question. This is the most important question, because this election is about integrity and character. And at no point has anyone, after countless hours of review, said there’s any criminal behavior whatsoever.

JP: There is a criminal probe—

BR: Mr. Pritzker, please. Mr. Pritzker was investigated by a Democrat, not a Republican, a Democrat in the city of Chicago for months. Reviewing emails, reviewing contractor reports, interviewing those involved— 

JP: WBEZ did a yearlong report on your failings that led to fourteen deaths—

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker argued often during the hour-long forum with the Sun-Times Editorial Board | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The debate was lively – and often contentious. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

BR: Mr. Pritzker, please. Mr. Pritzker— Your fraud is what this is about—

JP: Coverup fourteen deaths —

BR: Let’s focus. This is critically important. This election is about this issue. There was an investigation. He concluded— after the investigation concluded. Tax fraud, mail fraud, perjury—

JP: He’s not talking about—

BR: This is not partisan. Mary let me finish the point, please. This is important. Within 24 hours— within 24 hours, Lisa Madigan, with no evidence whatsoever of criminal behavior, said she’s launching a criminal investigation.

JP: There was a yearlong investigation—

MM: Mr. Pritzker, I’m going to let you respond to that. That would be only fair.

BR: But I’m not finished answering the question, Mary.

MM: OK. Let him answer, and then you finish, and we’ll be moving on.


MM: We can’t hear him. We can’t hear him.

TM: Boys, boys— we have—


TM: We have to take turns here—

MM: But I do need to let him finish, and then we will definitely give you an opportunity to respond.

BR: Thank you. This is the core issue: So within 24 hours, with not a shred of criminal behavior evidence, none—and no one claimed that there was any, she announces a criminal investigation in Quincy. Why? So that you guys in the press are talking about that, to distract from the real criminal behavior, the real fraud that, Mr. Pritzker has— 

CF: Okay—

BR: That shows how rigged our system is and how broken our system is.

MM: Alright, thank you, and Mr. Pritzker.

JP: Thank you. Six days went by. Six days before anybody told anybody else about the death and the sicknesses at—

BR: No criminal behavior whatsoever.

MM: Okay, I’m going to let him respond—

JP: Gov. Rauner’s administration took six days to let people know. People got sick— 70 people have gotten sick. Fourteen people have died as a result of the mismanagement, fatal mismanagement, at the Quincy veterans. And there was a cover-up. There are emails that were uncovered— In fact, in FOIA requests, they were blacked out, because he didn’t want to let people know what was going on which was an effort to cover their butts, to make sure that they weren’t held accountable. They wanted to blame it on Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who hadn’t been there for years, and they wanted to blame it on the weather. That is what the governor has been saying about what is now a criminal probe into what happened. The 14 people who died because of his fatal mismanagement. And it took three years to finally deal with it.

MM: Well we— we thank you for that response. Thank you.

CF: Let’s move on to Tom Frisbee.

TF: I have two related questions I’d like to ask each of you, one question. For Gov. Rauner, I would like to ask you this. We ran— The Sun-Times ran a series called “31 Bullets” that laid out a number of reforms that could reduce gun violence. My question for you is what specific laws will you champion, if you get a second term, to reduce gun violence in Illinois? And with that, I’d like to ask you, do you intend to sign the bill that would provide for certification of gun shops, which has been rewritten to address objections that you had to an earlier version. And for Mr. Pritzker, I’d like to ask you this: on what particular stiffer sentences would you support— what specific sentences, for people who are repeat gun violators? So, can you start?

BR: I signed a 72-hour waiting period for gun sales. I signed a bill to take guns away from those who are adjudicated mentally ill and dangerous to themselves or others. And I proposed—but the legislature did not act on—I proposed a ban on bump stocks and trigger cranks. I proposed resource officers be made available and funded for a school that would like one. I proposed the death penalty for anyone who commits mass murder, or murders a police officer. And I proposed truth in sentencing so that violent offenders are let back out on our streets early.

The real answer to your question, though, is not gun regulation— Oh by the way, I would not sign the gun dealer regulation bill that you’re talking about. All it will do is cause unemployment, and businesses to close, and not increase public safety. The real answer to your question is jobs. The best way to stop a gun, is with a job. We have brutally high unemployment on the South Side, West Sides of Chicago. Brutally high unemployment in many other communities in the state. Why? Because Illinois is hostile to business. We’re not growing fast enough. Why? Taxes, corruption—  

TF: Okay, you’re getting back into taxes. But I want to know specific laws.

BR: We’re fixing that— 

TM: We’ll get to that issue but we’re sticking to guns here. Mr. Pritzker, do you want to respond?

JP: Well first of all, I would sign that very same gun dealer licensing bill that the governor vetoed, because I believe that we need background checks on people who are holding all of those guns, who are selling those guns. I believe we need to ban both stocks, and have a governor who is fighting for that, and for— to fight against high-capacity magazines and gun bump stocks.

BR: Your friend Mr. Madigan did not pass that.

JP: You’ve done nothing to lobby for those things. And on the 72-hour waiting period: Remember that that bill was passed, and the governor amenditorily vetoed it, introducing the death penalty again just because, as you saw, the Illinois State Rifle Association actually backed those amendments. Why? Because they want the 72-hour waiting period, because it was designed to kill the bill. But so much pressure was visited upon the governor that he ended up signing a clean 72-hour waiting period. I think that we need to make sure that we’re getting the illegal guns off the streets, that we stop the trafficking from other states which is coming in, and causing many of the deaths in Chicago.

Thomas Frisbee, Sun-Times Editorial Board: OK but I asked you specifically about what measures you would support, what specific, stronger sentences for repeat gun violators you would support.

JP: Well we need to make sure we hold people accountable. I’m not a big fan of mandatory minimums, but I believe that people who are repeat offenders need to be held accountable by the judges that are in front of. Very important to me, though, for everybody to recognize that gun violence across the state of Illinois has gone up in the very same period that Gov. Rauner refused to compromise on a budget. So many of the violence interruption services, human services that people have as their last vestige of connection with civilization, have been— have gone away. I mean, mental health services—

TF: But again. But again, what specifically— You said you’re not a fan of mandatory minimums. Legislation was being worked on for presumptive minimums. Would you support that?

JP: Look, again, I’m not a fan of mandatory minimums—

TF: But that’s not mandatory, that’s presumptive—

JP: I understand, but I’m telling you that what we need to make sure happens is that all the circumstances are taken into account.

TF: Is that a no?

JP: But look, people who are repeat gun offenders, they should be held accountable.

TM: So let’s move on to another question. Our partners here are the AARP Illinois, and they sent us a few questions we’d like to also ask. I’ll ask one here. From the AARP Illinois: A recent AARP Illinois poll of registered voters ages 25 and over found that an alarming concern, nearly half of those polled say they have considered leaving the state in the last year. that includes my kids. During your first 100 days in office, what three— what specific— And by the way we know you could talk forever about all of these, but very precisely: What three direct actions you take in your first 100 days to discourage people who wanted to leave the state of Illinois? Governor?

BR:  It’s crystal clear. That’s what I’ve been fighting for every day as governor and we continue the fight. Number one, reduce the tax burden, both income and property taxes, property taxes being the priority. Number two, grow more good paying jobs by making Illinois pro-businesses and pro-job creation. And I’ve been endorsed— I’ve been endorsed, not Mr. Pritzker, by every job creation organization in the state, and I’ve been honored by the National Black Chamber of Commerce for doing more for black businesses than any other elected official in United States in recent years. And number three, end the corruption. The corruption is what makes people lack confidence, and leave the state. When the UIC determined Chicago is the most corrupt city America, and Illinois is one of the most corrupt states in America. Mr. Pritzker has been part of that corruption. He was caught committing tax and mail fraud and perjury. He tried to buy political office from Rod Blagojevich before Blagojevich went to prison. He’s cheated on his income taxes by his money offshore. He’s used racist language in referring to African-American elected officials. He is part of the broken corruption in this state, and we have to end that with term limits and fairness.

TM: You guys are really good at spinning to the next issue. Mr. Pritzker.

JP: I’d like to answer your question, if I may. There are— You asked about three things we can do to reduce the outmigration, so let me address those. The first thing is that we have, as you know, some of the highest property taxes in the entire nation. It’s one of the reasons— Governor, you’ve done nothing about property taxes and proposed a billion dollar increase in property taxes—

BR: That’s a lie. That’s a lie.

JP: Let me answer. Let me answer the question.

BR: Tell the truth.

JP: I let you go on and on with lies, let me, please, tell the truth here. We need to lower property tax to the state, and we can do that with a fair tax system. That’s what I proposed. I believe it’s very important for us to lower taxes on middle class and those striving to get there in middle-income neighborhoods.

TM: So the three things, very specifically, that will keep people from leaving Illinois are one, two and three?

JP: Fair enough. Property taxes, we’ve got to make sure we actually fund our higher education, universities and community colleges. And expand our MAP grant program, I put out a plan for doing just that. And then lastly we need to raise the minimum wage, something that Gov. Rauner opposes. I really believe that people should be able to earn a living wage.

BR: Let’s be clear, Tom— None of that would change the outmigration. He wants to raise taxes—

JP: All three of those—

BR: …and our vehicle miles driving. He wants to tax our way to a future that would devastate the state.

CF: I think we’re venturing into talking point territory—

BR: No, it’s the truth. The truth is what’s important.

TM: Marlen?

MG: Thank you. Gov. Rauner: in August, you said illegal immigration pushes up our unemployment rate—

BR: Yes.

MG: …and that holds down wages in Illinois.

BR: Yes.

MG: It takes jobs away from Americans—

BR: Yes.

MG: …so we’ve got to stand against that.

BR: Yes.

MG: …But if you look at unemployment figures, we are no worse off because of immigration. Many economists and researchers believe the nation is better off economically because of immigration. Here’s my question: There are more than 1.7 million foreign-born people living in Illinois, including maybe half a million undocumented immigrants. Where do immigrants living in Illinois—including undocumented immigrants—Where do they fit into Illinois economy?

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker met in a debate Tuesday at the Sun-Times. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Democrat J.B. Pritzker (left) and Gov. Bruce Rauner | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

BR: Great question. Let’s focus on immigration and sanctuary. Critical issues. I support legal immigration. Legal immigration has built America, and I support streamlining it and simplifying it. Illegal immigration takes jobs away from Americans and hold down wages. Hurts union workers, farm workers, factory workers. Hurts wages and raises unemployment. That’s a fact. Mr. Pritzker has said— Mr. Pritzker has said, and let’s be crystal clear—

MG: Wait wait wait. Have you seen the unemployment figures?

BR: I have. And Illinois should be far better. One of the reasons we have such high unemployment in the city of Chicago, and so much crime, is the massive number of illegal immigrants here take jobs away from American citizens in Chicago.

Lorraine Forte, Sun-Times Editorial Board: Okay so you’re blaming the violence in Chicago on illegal immigrants?

BR: I’m saying that the unemployment is higher, and wages are lower, because we have so much illegal immigration. And, you know what— Mr. Pritzker likes to say is he supports union families? Union workers are hurt by the illegal unemployment, and he has said there is no such thing as an illegal person. He has said there’s no such thing as illegal, and he wants more sanctuary cities in Illinois. I am against sanctuary, and I am against illegal immigration.

JP: People are not illegal. There are undocumented immigrants but people are not illegal.

BR: People can be here illegally, and they are, and they shouldn’t be. We should have e-verify in our system, that’s the way to stop illegal immigration, and that will raise wages, get more jobs available for American citizens, and Mr. Pritzker is against American workers when he’s supports sanctuaries and says no one is here illegally.

MG: Mr. Pritzker, please, where do where do immigrants fit into the Illinois economy, including undocumented immigrants.

JP: Gov. Rauner of course is trying to mask his own position, he and I agree about the Trust Act. He signed the Trust Act, and I agree we need the Trust Act in the state—

BR: Which the law enforcement asked me to sign. It does not—

JP: And, and, let me also say—

BR: It does not make us a sanctuary—

JP: Can you stop interrupting?

MG: He can’t interrupt him.

JP: Let me please answer the question. And we’ll stick to policy. We need comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level, and you should have a governor who is standing up and advocating for that, but we also need to stand up for immigrants who are here in this state of Illinois— They are good for the economy of the state—

BR: Illegal immigrants are not.

JP: Gov. Rauner, I want to share with you, at least my own story.

The meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board took place in the news production studio in the West Loop. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board took place in the news production studio in the West Loop. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

TM: Mr. Pritzker, can you talk about the distinction the governor makes between illegal and illegal immigrants? Is there a difference? Are illegal immigrants more of a problem?

JP: Well the term “undocumented immigrants” is the appropriate term here. And the fact is that we’re not going to send 11 or 12 million people outside the United States. That shouldn’t be done. We have a state that should be a welcoming state. We have undocumented immigrants who are relatives of documented and legal residents of the state of Illinois. We should protect the people of Illinois.

I want to share with you that my great grandfather arrived in this country. He was a refugee. He was penniless. He would have been killed if he had stayed in his home country. Arrived here—

BR: Refugees are not illegal immigrants—

JP: Arrived here in the state of Illinois and was taken in by a human service agency. Given a place to live. Given a public education by a public school and learned English. Went to a public university. And it was the bounty of the people of the state of Illinois, their generosity, and the security of the United States that kept them safe, and that has allowed me to survive, and my family to survive.

TM: Did your grandfather come here legally?

JP: My grandfather arrived here a refugee. There was no process.

TM: There was no distinction between them then, but now there is. Do you think there is an issue with undocumented immigrants becoming a burden on the city, which seems to be with the governor is saying?

JP: Look, we need comprehensive immigration reform so that the challenge doesn’t get worse. But the fact is that we’ve got people that live here, in the state of Illinois, that need to be protected. That’s the job of the gov—

BR: He’s not answering the question—

JP: I just answered the question.

MG: Are they a burden though?

JP: That is the job of the governor.

BR: Answer the question.

MG: The question is, do you see them as a burden on Illinois, as the governor does?

JP: No.

BR: You just said you didn’t want to make the burden worse.

JP: I’m explaining that what we need to do is protect the immigrants that are here in our state. We have immigrants here who are not protected— Under attack by President Trump. He stands with President Trump on this, I do not.

TM: Okay we need to move on because we’re already 45 minutes into this debate. Each of these issues we could talk about for an hour, but let’s move on for now.

LF: OK. Mr. Pritzker, as you campaign downstate, and you’re trying to get the votes of people in rural areas that are very different from Chicago, where you’re from, what is the biggest problem that downstate residents talk to you about that’s different from what people in Chicago talk about? And how would you address that problem? And then, Mr. Rauner I have a similar question for you, Governor.

JP: Well, I think you might be surprised at how similar the challenges are, and so I’ll point out the differences, but they’re differences of emphasis. What people are concerned about all across the state, whether they live in Cook County or Union County in Southern Illinois, is: jobs, having the ability to send your kid to college, affordably, and making sure that everyone your family is covered with healthcare. But in Southern and Central Illinois, often, jobs have not been created. Particularly under this governor. Very few jobs in Central and Southern Illinois. In fact he’s denigrated those communities with some of the comments—

LF: Okay well what, what would you do to solve that problem?

JP: So I put forward a plan that actually helps grow jobs. Remember that two-thirds of all the jobs—

BR: Raising taxes won’t grow jobs.

JP: Governor, would you let me finish? I know you’re in these desperate final hours of the campaign and on the attack, but—

Look: we need to create jobs, and two-thirds of all the jobs that get created in the state of Illinois get created by startup businesses, and small businesses. And I have put forward a plan to help people get that capital, and the mentorship, and the technical assistance that they need all across the state of Illinois. That’s one. Two: we need to invest in infrastructure and put forward the idea that infrastructure is important, not just here in the collar counties and in Cook County, but all across the rest of Illinois, which is the supply chain hub of the nation, and where we grow much of the agriculture for the world. And we employ a million people in our agriculture economy, we’ve got to make sure we invest in that as well.

LF: Well what— Does that not involve raising taxes? How’s that, how are you going to pay for those? Those sound like great ideas, but, how do you do that?

JP: Let me be clear, that infrastructure is something Governor says he wants to do it, but has no real plan for it. We need to invest in infrastructure, that’s something we agree on. But these other ideas— this doesn’t cost the state of Illinois much of anything. In fact, expanding healthcare—

I’ll give you an example: I put forward a plan for expanding healthcare that literally doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything. It allows people to buy into the state’s health insurance system, “buy in” being the key words, that people are paying for it. But it’s much less than a private health insurance plan would be. We need to give people the ability to expand not, only their availability of healthcare, but also to give small businesses the ability to offer healthcare to their employees.

LF: Okay. And Governor Rauner, on the other side, what is the biggest problem—and you may have touched on a couple of them already—but what is the biggest problem Chicagoans face that downstate does not? And how, specifically, would you address that? And since you’re against taxes, how are you going to address it without costing more money?

BR: So, this is the critical issue. In Chicago, people are suffering terribly from brutally high property taxes and brutally high unemployment which drives violence. That’s it. In Chicago is brutal violence caused by unemployment, primarily, and by brutally high property taxes. And I have proposed freezing property taxes and empowering local voters to control their property tax levy through a simple voter referendum, and to control, simply, government consolidation, and sharing services, and competitive bidding and contracting to lower property taxes.

We need to grow more jobs, that’s by reducing the regulatory burden and the tax burden on our small businesses, and I’ve been endorsed by every job-creating organization in the state to do it. And number three, it’s the corruption drives people out of Chicago and the state of Illinois. Mr. Pritzker has been investigated, and found to have been part of that, with tax fraud, mail fraud—

LF: Okay, okay. Once you get rid of property taxes, where are you— How are you going to make up the revenue? Give me an example of regulations that are so burdensome that they’re driving companies away.

BR: This is really important— So here’s— Total this up. I proposed 6 billion a year government efficiency savings. Six billion with a B. Track me on this. This is important. Mr. Pritzker has proposed $11 billion of new spending—

JP: That’s not true.

BR: Yes it is true.

JP: That’s just not true.

BR: Yes it is. I paid for $6 billion in government efficiency. How do we do that? Pension reform — two billion. Even many of the Democrats in the General Assembly has to agree with me on that.

JP: Where is your proposal?

BR: Two billion in pension reform. Half a billion dollars in government healthcare reform for state employees. OK, so that’s two and a half. And three and a half billion in the bipartisan task force that we created—Democrats and Republicans came together, I think you have a copy of the executive summary. Twenty-seven recommendations. If we did those 27 recommendations, $3.5 billion savings, that’s $6 billion to fund schools, human services and lower our tax burden.

LF: Okay. And if this is bipartisan, and I’ll let Mark— how has this not passed? If it’s got bipartisan support, why can’t we get it passed?

BR: For the simple— Start of this conversation: because Speaker Madigan makes his money from high property taxes. He does not want reforms. He specifically has fought the reforms repeatedly that are needed in the state. And Mr. Pritzker is his ally. Mr. Pritzker is proposing an income tax—

JP: The governor says he’s—


BR: …rather than work on reforms. So it doesn’t— working with good-hearted members of the General Assembly who won’t just do what Speaker Madigan orders them to do.

CF: I think we have got a good segue into Mark Brown’s question—

JP: May I just respond to one thing that’s very important about property taxes?

LF: Yes, and then we’re going to go to Mark, because we’re running out of time.

JP: As you know we have— We are 49th out of 50 states in state funding for education. And the result of that—

BR: And we’re fixing that.

JP: You’re not.


JP: May I finish? Twenty-five percent of funding for education comes from the state, the vast majority of the rest of it comes from local property taxes, so when the governor says that he wants to freeze—

BR: And you defrauded the people of the city of Chicago—

TM: Let’s move onto the next question.

JP: But it’s very important to lower local property taxes—

BR: Then stop cheating—

JP: He’s got to tell people how he’s going to—

LF: Okay. We’re going to move to Mark now. We’re going to move to Mark now.

BR: Your criminal probe—

JP: Stop with your—

BR: Such baloney.

Mark Brown, Sun-Times columnist: Gov. Rauner, during a second term, would you still be looking to give local municipalities the right to file for bankruptcy as a means of helping them deal with their pension problems? And Mr. Pritzker, if you don’t support that approach, how do you propose solving the problem of underfunded local police and fire pension plans across the state?

BR: So the answer is, I believe in local control of every possible issue. Contracting, competitive bidding, sharing services, consolidating, reorganizing debts. I believe in local control: Empower the local citizens through simple voter referenda. So our homeowners, our probably tax payers, our small businesses can vote to control their own communities. And as I said earlier that, if we did that, there’s possibly $3.5 billion of savings, and another $2.5 billion at the state level.

MB: This is specifically a bankruptcy question

BR: Bankruptcy is one of the things I would include as a local option for people to decide whether they want to use it or not.

MB: Mr. Pritzker?

JP: Well in addition to bankrupt he is advocating for local governments that he also advocated for the state government—I hope we’ll get to that subject. But, look: let’s talk about what we need to do for local pension systems. First of all, we should allow local pension systems to invest their dollars together. It is true that when you’ve got a very small pension system, the costs of investing in that pension system are very high. And it takes away from the dollars available to actually pay people the pensions.

Second, we need to make sure that we reduce that number of local units of government. We need to consolidate local governments. That will lower, not— By the way, it doesn’t affect the state budget, so much as it affects local governments, if we can consolidate. There are too many taxing bodies. There are too many units of government that lay on top of one another. We have the highest number in the United States—7,000 around, and the next highest, by the way, is about 5,000. So we need to go after that, as well. All of those things— Those things together will help alleviate some of the burdens—

TM: Can I ask you about consolidating local governments? I’ve been hearing this in the 40 years I’ve been working in Chicago news, and no one’s ever done it. Why not?

BR: DuPage County’s done it. DuPage County is doing it—

TM: Yeah— DuPage County’s done it a little bit but on the state level, very very little. I mean it seems to me that when it comes right down to it, there are too many jobs, locally, on the line, and nobody wants to step on toes.

BR: That’s right, local officials. That’s why we have to empower over voters. That’s what I’m recommending. Take power away from the politicians, give it to the voters. They will consolidate and share services.

JP: I agree that we need to let the local stakeholders make those decisions and, in fact there are situations in which it doesn’t make sense to consolidate, where people looking from afar might say that it does. But it is true that we have too many units of government, and we need to make it easier for people to consolidate.

MB: Governor, another major piece of unfinished business from your turnaround agenda is allowing local governments to establish their own right-to-work laws, which would allow them to prohibit compulsory union dues. The U.S. Court of Appeals recently shut down such an ordinance from the village of Lincolnshire. Are you counting on a conservative U.S. Supreme Court that now includes Brett Kavanaugh to reverse that ruling?

BR: One of the most important things we can do is give local control to our citizens in our communities all over the state to control their own destiny. If they want to compete with Indiana, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, for jobs they should be able to do it. And if they don’t want to, if they want to keep the current status quo in Illinois, the current regulations—keep it. That’s only fair and reasonable. One size should not fit all, and the simple fact is we’re, we’re bleeding out in manufacturing. We are supposed to be a strong, union jobs state, pro-worker. The tragedy in Illinois is because we’re not attractive to manufacturers, and our taxes and our regulations, manufacturers are choosing Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas, not us. And that’s hurting union workers in this state.

Our factory workers make less than the factory workers in those other states now, and they’re growing tens of thousands of good paying union jobs in those states, and we’re not growing union jobs, because manufacturers are coming here. In order to have a union job you’ve got to have a job. And especially a factory job. If we do bring more factories— And I’ve been endorsed by Manufacturers’ Association.  I’ve been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve been given that the Federal Manufacturing Award for the Technology and Manufacturing Association. I am fighting for more manufacturing jobs, and those jobs can become union jobs. And I want more new jobs in Illinois.

JP: That is just hogwash. The governor has been fighting against unions and trying to destroy unions from day one of his governorship.

BR: Baloney. Baloney.

JP: He brought with him this Koch brothers right-wing network agenda that says lower wages and lower workplace—

BR: Cheating on your taxes and raising taxes on union workers will not help union workers.

JP: Look, you wanted to lower peoples’ wages in the state of Illinois because you thought that having a low-wage state would create jobs. You’ve been bad-mouthing the state since day one of your administration. That is what people don’t want to move to the state. I’m opposed to a right-to-work laws because it takes away people’s collective bargaining rights. It takes away people’s right to go ahead— to have any power in negotiating with management. And I believe strongly that we need to raise wages in the state of Illinois, give people the opportunity get a better wage, and that means creating jobs.

When you bad-mouth the state everywhere you go, when you tell everybody and invite governors from surrounding states— 

BR: When you cheat on your taxes and support Blagojevich and Madigan, that’s a problem—

JP: When you— When you have governors go on TV —


JP: Let me tell you: if you invite governors from surrounding states to bad-mouth the state of Illinois, and you tell everybody, ‘Don’t come here,’ guess what? They’re not going to come here.

BR: People want to be led to fight against corruption and taxes. That’s what I’m doing. And they know Mr. Pritzker will raise their taxes, and fund the corruption that’s eating our state—

JP: If we fix the property taxes— 

BR: Our corrosive, cancerous corruption— [00:51:05][7.5]

CF: I think this goes segue into Tina’s question.

Tina Sfondeles, Sun-Times politics reporter: Governor, you’ve talked a lot about how stressful it is to be governor, you’ve made jokes about losing weight, and a little bit of hair. How do stay well? Specifically, do you have a diet and fitness routine, and how do you deal with stress? And I have a similar question for Mr. Pritzker.

BR: This job is tremendously stressful. Worrying about 12.8 million people every day is very stressful. It’s also an honor, and a privilege, and the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done in my life and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it’s a deep privilege to serve the people of Illinois. What do I do to relieve stress? Three things. I ride my motorcycle a lot. Free— feeling of freedom, and just relaxation, being out with friends, veterans and police officers and firefighters. It’s my number one way relax. But I also swim, when I can. It’s not— not nearly enough. But I also skate. I used to play hockey when I was young, and I skate— When it’s hot I rollerblade and when it’s cold I ice skate.

TS: And Mr. Pritzker, you’ve gotten a good glimpse of what it’s like to be governor, in terms of traveling statewide and going everywhere—it’s a gruelling schedule. Same question for you: how do you stay well? Specifically, do you have a diet and fitness routine, and how do you deal with stress?

JP: Sure. Well, I think you know I’ve had a weight problem nearly my entire life, like a lot of other people. I’m always struggling with it, there’s no doubt about it. I always monitor it because, you know, my father passed away when he was young, of a heart problem. And I am always concerned about it. I have two young children, they’re teenagers. I want to be well for them. So I’m always, constantly keeping an eye on it.

Look, I also have to decompress as everybody does, and alleviate stress. I have great friends and I have great activities that we do together. I’m a tennis player, a decent one, although I have trouble, I admit, getting everywhere on the court. Sometimes I miss shots. But I do enjoy getting outdoors, and I— You know, walk along the lakefront or wherever I can.

I think that being governor of the state of Illinois The people of Illinois deserve somebody that will wake up every day thinking about them, working hard for them, who’s healthy for them, no doubt about it, and who goes to bed at night thinking about what they didn’t do that day for the people of Illinois, for working families that they need to do the next day. And I think I’ve demonstrated to many people in public, as a candidate and how hard at work— And I have worked very hard my whole life, building a business, and helping people across the state, with early childhood education, with school breakfast. These are all things that I’ve dedicated myself and you know, it’s been the work of my life, and I’ll be proud to serve as governor.

BR: That’s so insulting when you cheat on taxes and you defraud the people of Illinois.


JB: …Quincy Veteran’s Home, because you covered it up. You covered it up.


CF: Alright Tina, let’s keep the train moving.

TS: Both President Trump and President Obama have released very detailed public schedules, including meetings that they have with groups of people, even if they aren’t open to the press. Would either you pledge to release more detailed public schedules in order to be more transparent to the public?

JP: I’ve put out schedules of where I’ve been during the course of this campaign—

TS: If elected governor, to show who you’re meeting with.

JP: Sure, I think people ought to know where their governor is going and who they’re with.

BR: Sure. Transparency is great.

TS: Then why have you not done that?

BR: We put out my schedule every day.

TS: But not, when you’re meeting with certain individuals or groups, that sort of thing. When you see President Trump’s schedule it’s a very detailed list.

BR: We put out our schedule every day.

CF: I think we should ask the tax question. Tina, you had a good one.

TS: There was a recent Pew Research Center analysis which helped to define the middle classes in America. If you could, please tell me which of these three you would consider to be the middle class for a family of three in the Chicago area. And this is household income before taxes.

So the first option is $120-130,000; $160-170,000, or $180-190,000. Which one of those would you consider to be the middle class for a family of three in the Chicago area. That includes the suburbs as well. Mr. Pritzker?

JP: Well, I think it’s a much broader, actually, schedule of people on incomes than just that. In fact, you know I’ve said all along that we need to lower taxes for the vast majority of people in the state—

TS: If you could pick one of those, please.

JP: Sorry. It’s hard to pick one of those because I actually think that there are a lot of people who are making more and less than that who ought to be in that who ought to be in the category.

BR: Oh I would say classes anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, that’s the middle class range. I mean, this is the critical issue, Tina. Mr. Pritzker’s proposed a graduated income tax. Every state—Every state that’s proposed a graduated income tax, the middle class has paid more in taxes—

JP: That’s not true.

BR: Yes it is. After the income tax came than before. And look at the states that have a graduated income tax today. Yes—

JP: Most are doing better than the state of Illinois—

BR: Most businesses, most businesses pay more in taxes. In those states, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut— The middle class pays six, seven, eight percent. Much more than in Illinois. Mr. Pritzker would raise taxes on everyone and businesses would flood out of the state of Illinois. Devastation for our jobs and our bottom line.

LF: But if those states are doing better economically and have a higher income tax rate, doesn’t that say that higher taxes, depending on how they’re structured, don’t necessarily drive business away?  

BR: New Jersey and Connecticut are not doing better. They’re suffering from the same problems we are—

LF: Well, but Minnesota, an—

TM: You know, governor, can I ask you—

JP: But most states with a graduated income tax are doing much better—

TM: You’ve now said again what you’ve said before, that every state that has a graduated income tax, the middle class pays more—

BR: Than before it came in, that’s right.

TM: And in fact, BGA, Politifact, which you may simply disagree with, did an analysis that— And they went through in exhaustive detail— And they found that of the 32 states that have the graduated income tax, that’s simply not something you could say. Some do, some don’t. It depends on so many factors. Depends on how you define middle class. It also takes into consideration enormous exemptions that many states have for many people in certain situations. And the bottom line of them was that, of the eleven— of the 32 states that have graduated taxes, an individual earning a median, or that would actually, you get— paid less in taxes than they do in Illinois. And the median being, I think— I can’t remember what that number was but the median for the national household.

We could go back and forth. But I’m not sure where the reality stands, but certainly, by any estimation, you really need to explain how you can say that every single state of 32 that has graduated income tax, the middle class pays more. Where do you get that?

BR: This is, again, where games get played by those who have an agenda. We have to look at—

TM: BGA has an agenda?

BR: They do. Look at, look at what the middle class was paying before the graduated income tax came in and what they paid afterwards. You just have to look at that, that’s what I’m describing.

Here’s the bottom line: Mr. Pritzker is proposing $11 billion in new spending.

JP: He doesn’t want to answer your question, so—

BR: No I was answering the question, Mr. Pritzker. Mr. Tax Cheat. So here’s what—

JP: You’re under a criminal probe, you want to answer for that?

BR: A phony one trumped up by your Madigan plan.

CF: Wow. Okay, let’s answer the question without referring to each other please.

BR: Yes, please, let’s answer the question. Eleven billion in new spending. Not possible to have only multimillionaires cover that. Not possible. A graduated income tax— 

TM: But it is possible to resolve that $11 billion debt with no tax increase?

BR: Eleven billion dollars of new spending, let alone our existing problems.

JP: The biggest deficit in the history of the state, Governor.

BR: This is the core issue. I’ve proposed 6 billion more government efficiency savings, then we can more than balance the budget—

CF: But that’s not the question. I think what we’re trying to drill down on here is this is, a very good, fundamental difference between the two of you that voters can decide on. So let’s each take one minute apiece, and articulate our positions, without referring to the other person.

TM: On the matter of the graduated income tax.

CF: On the matter of the graduated income tax. Please.

BR: Alright. Should I start? Or, Mr. Pritzker—

CF: Ding.

BR: Ding. Okay. We can never balance the budget unless we take on the structural reasons why our government spending grows faster than our economy. Period. As long as we leave the current structure in place, we will always have tax hikes, we’ll always have deficits and we’ll always have—

TM: Let me interrupt you right there Governor, because the question is not, why we shouldn’t have a graduated income tax, or any kind of a tax increase. The question is, if we were to have a tax increase, how do you make the argument that a graduated income tax wouldn’t hurt the middle class more? I just don’t see— 

BR: Because it makes it it makes it easier to raise taxes on everyone. The taxes go through the roof immediately. Those states that have graduated and are the states that have the highest overall tax burden. It’s a green light to raise taxes on everybody. Just call your friends in New Jersey, ask them how it’s going. It’s a nightmare. They can’t fund their pensions—

TM: Well there are 32 states that have that—

BR: Okay. But the but those states have taken on the structural reasons— Indiana used to have a graduated one, they did away with it. Wisconsin, Wisconsin has a graduated tax, but they’ve taken on the structural reasons for their economic growth rate versus their government spending. I am proposing those structural changes, Mr. Pritzker is not,  and he’s proposing 11 billion in new spending—

TM: Now, Mr. Pritzker, could you, very succinctly, give your best argument for a graduated tax, or something like that.

JP: Yes. So today, people in the middle, and people who are at the bottom, who are paying taxes, are paying 11 and 13 percent in total tax burden—all of the regressive taxes on them, including the regressive flat income tax in the state of Illinois, and people at the top are paying about half of that. I just want to make that a little bit fairer. I don’t think that it’s right that people at the top a much lower rate than people in the middle and at the bottom. The total tax burden that falls on the middle class is much too high. That’s why what I proposed is, that we lower taxes— And don’t forget, the total tax burden, it’s not just—

BR: We’ll lower taxes—

JP: Would you please let me finish? Did we not just have a rule here that we would actually be able to answer?

CF: You’re getting towards your minute, though.

JP: We want to lower income taxes on the middle class. And, a very important part of the structural change in this is that we would lower property taxes. Those two things have a very positive impact on the economy of the state of Illinois, on job creation, and specifically on the middle class.

CF: But how would we, how would we, lower property taxes?

BR: Exactly. With $11 billion—

JP: With exemptions. With exemptions. That is how we would do it.

TM: So if you had a graduated income tax,  would you link it directly in the law to reducing property taxes?

JP: I believe that we need to make sure that we’re lowering property taxes, so it linkage is the right word. I think we need to make sure that everybody across the state— remember what’s happening in middle class neighborhoods, and people are striving to get there. People who own homes are paying inordinately high property taxes, and people wealthier neighborhoods are paying a much lower percentage of value on their property taxes. I want to lower property taxes overall because they’re so regressive. If we do that, and we lower income taxes for most people in the state, I believe, again, that we can grow the economy of the state of Illinois, something that the governor has woefully been inadequate at.

MM: So I think that through this process we’ve gotten a really good view of what you think about each other. I would really like to get a view of really what you think about how this process has gone so far in terms of you, Governor, your administration. If you had to— if you were able to having redo on any aspect of your administrative strategy, or decisions you made in your first term, and you Mr. Pritzker, your political path leading up to your run for governor, what would that redo be and why. And just, keep in mind— We all everyone’s, you know, has their own faults. No one’s perfect. We just want to get a clear view of what you would do with a redo.

BR: Two things. I would look for lots of small-step wins in the first year or two. And I would be far more time— and focused on the effectiveness of communicating to the people of Illinois about how deep our problems are, how broken, and how much time it takes to fix the problems. Those are the two things we would do differently. That said, we’ve had great successes. We’ve learned lessons, and in my second term we’ll look forward even more success.

JP: Well during the course of the campaign, as you know there’s been a lot of nastiness that’s come about. I really had hoped that we could have a campaign both for the primary and the general election focused on public policy. I’ve tried to do that. I did that from the very announcement that I made for months and months and months. And I believe strongly that there are real reforms that need to be made at the state level.

MM: So what would you, what— If you had a redo, what would you do differently

JP: Yeah I would have hoped that we could focus on public policy the entire time. And you’ve, you’ve tried to do that, I think, in this editorial board. It’s been very hard. The attacks just come, no matter what.

TM: So, so we really have to wrap it up now. We’re at, we’re over an hour, and we are going to— But you know, Lorraine had one question, which, if she doesn’t mind— Why don’t you go ask—

LF: Okay, sure. This is just a question, just to give voters, maybe a little bit more insight into your personality. Quickly, what TV show do you never miss?

And what was the last book that you read that wasn’t a political book? And whoever says “Game of Thrones” gets points.

TM: Mr. Pritzker, we’ll go with you first.

JP: Well, I mean, I love the show— I don’t know if any of you are on Netflix, but I love the show “Atypical.” It’s a relatively newer show, and something that I don’t miss. I enjoy that a lot. And— what was the other part of your question?

LF: The last book that you read that wasn’t on politics or current events.

JP: Gosh, I have to admit the last book I’ve read is “Industries of the Future”by Alec Ross, which is about A.I., artificial intelligence, and other technologies that are overtaking the economy and how to deal with those.

LF: Governor?

BR: Far and away, my favorite time— I have to say, as governor I’ve watched virtually no television. Back before being governor, I would love the classics, like for example I would always like to see “The Dick Van Dyke Show” or some other classic, family shows the 60s. I love that stuff, it’s kinda teary-eyed to me, and it’s a great way to relax.

I read a lot of issues pertaining— Not politics, but issues of challenging society, and I would say one of the best books that wrote recently is called “The Big Sort,” how people in America are moving into groups where like-minded people are, and what the ramifications of them are. I think that’s a topic that—

LF: What’s it called again?

BR: “The Big Sort.”

TM: That’s a fascinating—

BR: It is, it’s worth— If you haven’t read it I’d encourage that you read it. It drives a lot of what’s going on in America today. But I enjoy those kinds of books.

MG: Can I say that I am not going to watch TV with either of you anytime soon.


TM: But anyway, thanks to both of you coming in today. It was a good-spirited debate. We appreciate it. Thank you.

We want to tell anyone who might be listening here that will be making endorsements in this race, probably later this week, and in the meantime we encourage everybody to go to our website and our Sun-Times voting guide. We’ve worked really hard trying to introduce you not only these two folks, but candidates for offices from governor all the way down through the County Board and every place else. So we hope goes into Sun-Times voting guide at  for profiles of all of our candidates running for statewide office. And that’s it. Thanks for joining us. Thank you. Thank you.

Gov. Bruce Rauner (right) and Democrat J.B. Pritzker | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner (right) and Democrat J.B. Pritzker | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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