Pritzker Wants to Raise State Pension Payments, Offers No Specifics

J.B. Pritzker
J.B. Pritzker / Getty Images
November 23, 2018

Incoming Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently got candid about pensions and one-party rule with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Pritzker was the guest of Emanuel’s weekly podcast, Chicago Stories. Pritzker did open up about what he wants to accomplish in his first term as Illinois’ top executive.

Emanuel asked the Chicago billionaire about what he’ll do about the state's $130 billion pension debt, which is putting pressure on the state budget. Pritzker said the state should pay more up front, but didn't get into details.

"We’re going to have to look at the amortization schedule, the amount of money we’re putting in, to raise that up," he said. "This is all one budget."

As President Barack Obama’s chief of staff when Democrats had majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate, Emanuel knows what it's like to direct policy with a ruling party. Emanuel asked Pritzker if he had any concerns about such a steep one-party rule that he will be presiding over come January.

"There are never too many Democrats," Pritzker said. "We roughly share the same values across the Democratic Party ... I think we’re going to get a lot done to raise wages in the state, to lower the cost of healthcare, to make college more affordable."

Pritzker will inherit a state budget passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner that is estimated by his own office to be about $1 billion out of balance. Pritzker also will be responsible for the state's past-due bills, about $7 billion worth. Pritzker didn’t give specifics on how he’d address the backlog of bills.