(The Center Square) – Illinois statehouse Republicans continue to criticize Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s leadership on a variety of fronts, saying he’s failed to live up to his word on redistricting, tax credits to grow the economy, and protecting veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After saying on the campaign trail in 2018 that he would veto partisan-drawn legislative maps, Wednesday, the governor said he will veto any map he said is unfair. But, he wouldn’t say whether he’d sign a map based on inaccurate data.
“I don’t actually know all the data that’s being used, I’ve heard pieces of it as you have, but again that will be presented to me when it comes,” Pritzker said.
He said the legislature is working toward a June 30 deadline to pass a new map. Democrats have said they are using a variety of data, including lawmaker input, to craft maps, but some have said the American Community Survey data isn’t accurate enough.
Shortly after on the House floor, state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, quoted the governor and demanded from Democrats transparency.
“This is a mockery of the process,” Bourne said. “The people of Illinois deserve better. This is a formal request for the data that you are using to draw the legislative maps behind your closed doors.”
Republicans say Pritzker needs to assert more leadership over legislative Democrats to not gerrymander maps. They’ve been critical of Democrats moving forward with the map drafting process without full data being released by the U.S. Census. That’s not expected until sometime this summer.
Another avenue Republicans say the governor is going back on his word is by previously supporting tax credits like the Blue Collar Jobs Act, but now calling them “corporate loopholes.”
“The governor should immediately rescind his proposal for a massive tax increase, and should rescind his proposals to go back on his word and to break the negotiated agreement that was struck between our caucus and the governor just a few short years ago,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon.
“The tax incentives that were created, many of them are still there, they weren’t taken out of the budget this year,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “Back in 2019, they were put into the budget because we could afford to do that. I don’t know if anybody noticed. We’ve had a global pandemic and it’s had a real effect on the state of Illinois.”
He said his proposal to reduce nine different tax incentive programs for nearly $1 billion of impact was necessary to provide essential services for the coming fiscal year. Despite that, the state’s revenues are $2 billion better than anticipated this year and more than $790 million better than anticipated for the coming fiscal year.
Republicans have also sustained criticism of the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home last fall that killed 36 residents. Pritzker continues to defend his administration’s handling of the tragedy.
Wednesday, Pritzker downplayed requests from Republicans that the Illinois Attorney General investigate whether there was criminal negligence in the outbreak at LaSalle home last fall.
“Look, all I can say is that we took responsibility by taking action on the proposal and the suggestions that were made that came out of those reports,” Pritzker said.
Several reports highlighted a variety of problems at the LaSalle home, including ineffective hand sanitizer, staff not following COVID-19 protocols, and a breakdown of communication amid administration officials.
Tuesday, state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike not remembering if she talked to the former director of veterans’ affairs during the peak of the LaSalle outbreak is unacceptable.
“You write things down, you have a calendar, you need to share with the committee everything you possibly can that shows you’re being as transparent as possible,” Welter said. “And if you’re not willing to do that, and accept that, then, yeah, maybe you should consider a different line of work.”
A spokesperson for the governor Wednesday said Pritzker still has confidence in Ezike.