SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (FOX 32) - He's been governor for less than five months, but J.B. Pritzker claims Illinois is on a roll. This, after the General Assembly passed a series of new bills over the past week.
The House and Senate legalized the adult use of marijuana and sports betting, along with more than a dozen new gambling venues. The legislature also passed a massive public works program to improve roads, bridges and state-run universities.
The governor explained Tuesday why he hopes Mayor Lightfoot will put Chicago’s new casino on the South Side or West Side, even if a downtown site would make the most money for the city's nearly-broke police and fire pension funds.
“It’s not just about maximizing every dollar,” said Gov. Pritzker. “It's also about making sure we're -- that we're placing this in areas where people can actually have opportunity.”
Lawmakers approved several billion dollars worth of new taxes and fees, including from gambling and marijuana interests, plus: doubling the gasoline tax from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents; raising vehicle registration from $98 to $148 a year and pushing the per-pack cigarette tax from $1.98 to $2.98.
“We want to keep people in this state,” Gov. Pritzker said, in response to the idea people would leave the state due to the tax hikes. “Remember the biggest outflow of people, for the last bunch of years, has actually been students. We had 72,000 just over a three-year period under Gov. Rauner, who decided not to go to college in the state of Illinois because they didn't know if they could get a map grant.”
Rejecting calls to veto a $1,600 a year pay raise for state lawmakers, Gov. Pritzker suggested they deserve it.
“They're working night and day, Republicans and Democrats, I credit them both,” said Gov. Pritzker. “Many of them are taking on much more than people expect.”