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Gov.-elect JB Pritzker has taken the prospect of an immediate income tax hike off the table, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that he won’t pursue an “artificial” progressive income tax during the spring legislative session. 

Pritzker floated the idea as a possible way to impose an immediate graduated income tax, which the Illinois Constitution forbids. But he hasn’t really talked about the idea since April, and he never said he was fully committed to it. Not to mention that an immediate tax hike — even if it is only on upper-income earners — could mar and complicate his first months in office. 

When I asked Pritzker what he feared most about taking the reins, Pritzker said he didn’t approach the task with fear. Instead, he said he wants to develop ways of dealing with the “real challenges” ahead. 

“But we can’t do it in a hyper-partisan fashion,” Pritzker stressed, adding that was one of the reasons he’d called both Republican legislative leaders on election night. He said he made it clear he wanted to work with both of them. 

“Good ideas can come from anywhere, including Republicans,” the governor-elect said. “I think we have a real opportunity to get some things done if we get rid of the partisan rancor and talk across the aisle.” 

A capital bill, however, would go a long way toward brightening Statehouse spirits and Pritzker has pledged to pass one. 

I asked Pritzker if he will appoint any Republicans to run state agencies. He said no decisions have been made on available positions, “but I will for sure have people from both parties serving in the administration.” 

Former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar is co-chairing Pritzker’s transition committee. Several legislators in both parties are graduates of his renowned fellowship program and still maintain close and respectful ties to him. 

“It’s extraordinarily important that we have a dialogue, even when we disagree significantly,” Pritzker said of what he’d learned from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s dealings with the General Assembly. “That dialogue shouldn’t end. ... There’s not gonna be any, you know, holding hostage.” 

Asked about his first legislative priority in January, Pritzker pointed to his campaign promise of focusing on things that will “lift up the standard of living” for Illinoisans by “putting dollars back in their pockets.” 

Pritzker said that would include his plan to allow people who don’t currently qualify for Medicaid to buy in to the program and then use it as their primary health insurance (which, as proposed, wouldn’t cost the government any money). Increasing MAP grants for college students is another possibility, as well as helping former college students refinance their education loans.

When asked to complete this sentence: “By May 31st of 2019, ‘x’ will be approved, I guarantee it,” Pritzker laughed and said, “We will have a budget.”

Let’s all hope House Speaker Michael Madigan doesn’t make him eat those words.

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Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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