SPRINGFIELD It took some prodding, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Sunday he is pledging again to not raise sales or income taxes if he wins a second term.
"Yeah, I'm not going to raise taxes on the hardworking people of Illinois," he said. "I'm not going to do it."
The pronouncement came as the Chicago Democrat formally kicked off his re-election bid with a rally in Springfield Sunday morning, en route to stops in Marion and Chicago.
In a speech to about 100 supporters gathered at a preschool on the Capital City's north side, Blagojevich outlined a long list of accomplishments, ranging from raising the minimum wage to expanding taxpayer-funded health care for children all without increasing the sales or income tax.
He said voters should give him a second term because Republicans, who controlled the governor's office for a quarter century, would loosen gun laws and take away the right of women to have access to birth control.
"We're making progress, we're getting things done and now is not the time to go back," said Blagojevich, who was flanked by his wife, Patti, and their two young daughters, Amy and Annie.
After his speech, when asked if he would keep his no-tax pledge for another four years, Blagojevich initially wouldn't say "yes" or "no."
It was only after several minutes of questioning that he issued a more definitive statement.
"I don't believe in it. I think it's the wrong thing to do," he told reporters.
That belief is shared by two Republican candidates for governor dairy owner Jim Oberweis of North Aurora and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington who have issued blanket decrees against raising taxes.
Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz has said he would raises taxes only as a last resort. State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka said she would not take a no-tax pledge.
In his speech, Blagojevich focused on the Republicans who want to beat him in November, not former Chicago alderman Edwin Eisendrath, his opponent in next month's primary.
But the governor said is not looking past the March 21 election. "No, no, not at all," he said.
Eisendrath, a college administrator, issued a statement welcoming Blagojevich to the race.
"Mr. Blagojevich has been campaigning at taxpayer expense for months," Eisendrath noted. "Now he will have to rely on the state contractor and lobbyist contributions to pay for his efforts."
Eisendrath has not taken a no-tax-hike pledge.
The governor, meanwhile, was not clear on whether he'd move to Springfield if he wins a second term. Since taking office in January 2003, Blagojevich has lived in his own home in Chicago, rather than moving into the Executive Mansion, located roughly two blocks from the Statehouse.
"The decision will be what's best for our children," said Blagojevich. "I haven't really thought that far ahead."
He also didn't specifically address allegations that his own campaign donors have been rewarded with lucrative state contracts, which have become the focus of state and federal investigations.
"We do everything right and I'm proud of my record of accomplishment," said Blagojevich. "We're going to continue to make sure we follow all the rules and that we're very scrupulous in making sure that all of those things, that we have an open and fair bidding process and that taxpayers get the best and the brightest and the most bang for their tax dollars."
In addition to stops in three cities on Sunday, the governor has scheduled campaign announcements today in Rockford, Moline, Quincy, Cahokia and Peoria.