Bipartisanship and inclusion seemed to be the theme of J.B. Pritzker’s inaugural speech, as the Democrat appeared to set the tone for his leadership.
Monday, Pritzker was sworn in as the 43rd Governor of Illinois in front of an energized audience inside Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield.
“Big change rides on what we can do together,” said Pritzker. “Not what one person attempts alone.”
After the tenure of former Republican governor Bruce Rauner experienced a long-term budget impasse and on-and-off tensions across the aisle, Pritzker also declared a sharp warning against partisan tactics.
“I’m not naive about what it will take to do this,” Pritzker said. “All who come to the table with fresh ideas about our budget and fair tax in good faith, you will be welcome to the table. But if uou lead with partisanship and scare tactics, you will be met with considerable political will.”
So far, the collaborative language has garnered support from Democrats and Republicans. Member of both parties hope Pritzker’s speech will be more than mere words, and offer support to work together.
“As long as the governor is coming in with the understanding and respect that he is going to have to work with the general assembly, I think there is a good chance that things are going to get done,” said state representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington).
“I think it’s a new chapter in state government,” said state senator David Koehler (D-Peoria).
“The mood is one of optimism and cooperation as the new governor takes office,” wrote state rep. Mike Unes (R – East Peoria) on Monday. “Even though he has the supermajority. I hope that he works across the aisle, as he indicated he will. When he does, I’ll be a partner who is willing to work together to improve any proposed legislation for the people of Illinois.”
The new governor also shared his vision for his tenure including a higher minimum wage, legalizing recreational marijuana, a “fair tax” system and passing a balanced budget in 2019. He again mentioned his desire to improve the state’s infrastructure — much to the liking of central Illinois lawmakers and union representatives in attendance.
“Our infrastructure is probably our No. 1 challenge in Peoria County,” said board chairman Andrew Rand. “It’s in desperate need of repair, and we do not have the right mechanisms, other than referendums, to fix them.”
“Look at infrastructure development, that puts people to work,” said Mike Matejka, a representative for the Grate Plains Laborers’ District Council based in Peoria.
However, not everyone is rallying behind the new governor and his ideas. Tim Schneider, Illinois GOP Chairman, accused Pritzker of making false promises and leading the state down the wrong path less than an hour into Pritzker’s term. Senate leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) agrees that the two sides view things differently.
“As I told Governor elect Pritzker and now Governor Pritzker, it’s not a partisan issue; it’s a philosophical issue. People in the Republican party don’t believe in raising the income tax on the backs of families and businesses is productive,” Brady said. “But there are many things we can work on.”
Of those, Brady mentioned funding infrastructure and fair wages. The GOP says it will hold Pritzker, Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate president John Cullerton responsible over the next coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the night also proved historic.
Juliana Stratton, who mentioned her ancestors’ ties to slavery in her inauguration speech, becomes the first African-American Lieutenant Governor in Illinois. Pritzker now becomes the state’s richest governor and the one of the wealthiest lawmakers in American history.
Others sworn in Monday include Treasurer Michael Frerichs (second term), Attorney General Kwame Raoul (first term), Comptroller Susana Mendoza (second term), and Secretary of State Jesse White (sixth term).