Pritzker, love him or hate him, give him some credit. Pritzker is a leader, and that will serve him well should he throw his hat into the Democratic presidential race.
Pritzker makes gubernatorial visits from Chicago to Carbondale and Rockford to Danville. He even does international trade meetings. That energy serves him well in Illinois and serves as a foundation for a national campaign.
During the COVID pandemic he was the face of Illinois’ response to COVID. Agree or disagree with his position, he led. Many of us disagreed with the decisions he made, but he made them based on what he believed was the best medical advice available from the federal government.
Decisions had to be made, and JB did not shy away from the decision making process. He made decisions and took the political heat. Leadership is in part the ability to survive the minefields and still let your position prevail. Pritzker did that.
Pritzker has had one advantage in Springfield that his predecessor Republican Bruce Rauner did not have. Rauner was stonewalled during his four years as governor by a Democratic legislature that simply did not want to work with Rauner. It was a difficult four years for Illinois.
Pritzker has a legislature that has worked in lock step with him. Even with the Mike Madigan debacle, Pritzker was able to stay out of the fray and work his agenda. That Pritzker has been able to stay unscathed by the Madigan issue speaks to his political skills and perhaps a little bit of luck.
What truly has defined Pritzker is the Illinois economy. Regardless of the administration, Illinois has spent far more than it has received for decades. Illinois was the debt hole of the country. We didn’t fund our pensions and didn’t pay our bills. If you were a retired teacher or state employee, you spent each budget cycle wondering if you would have a pension check. If you did business with the state, you simply prayed that you’d get paid sometime during the fiscal year, but you had already seen your banker to borrow funds against the state payment. Illinois was a fiscal joke.
Pritzker and COVID would change the Illinois fiscal climate.
COVID tanked the economy and Congress and the President, be it Trump or Biden, didn’t want the economy to crash on their watch. They printed money and threw it to the states and local governments, much like a politician throwing candy to the kids during a parade. The feds literally came to the rescue of state and local government with borrowed money. (That is a story for a different day.) DeWitt County also benefitted from these cash outlays.
Pritzker, a progressive Democrat, chose not to fund new programs with the largesse. Rather, Pritzker acted like the responsible businessman his family is known for. Pritzker got the Illinois bills under control and firmed up state pensions. Illinois now has its highest credit rating in years, The nation noticed and JB got a lot of free press, which pays dividends down the road.
JB gave his state of the state address earlier this month. His proposed budget has significant increases for early childhood education, day cares and behavioral health programs. Young families going broke with daycare expenses must be drooling with the thought of expended preschool for all kids and assistance with day care expenses.
The mental health advocates have been seeking increased funding for years. Expanded preschool and mental health funding fit very well into the national agenda of the progressives. I am not sure the Illinois taxpayers will be pleased when the bill comes in, but right now there is traction in Springfield for the legislation.
Biden continues to appear weak. Whether it’s the border in Texas or a train wreck in Ohio, the people are not getting what they want and expect from a President.
If Biden falters, and he may well, Pritzker is poised to step up. He has the campaign people and the money. More importantly, JB is not part of the Washington beltway and has a solid resume of leadership.
Love him or hate him, JB may be the name for Democrats in 24.