Pritzker: Mil­lions from le­gal weed could help bud­get


Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JOSEPH BUSTOS jbus­[email protected]

Illi­nois may be able to bring in $350 mil­lion to $ 700 mil­lion a year in new state rev­enue if mar­i­juana is le­gal­ized, says the next gover­nor of the state.

When Gover­nor-elect J.B. Pritzker takes of­fice in Jan­uary, the Chicago Demo­crat will have Demo­cratic su­per-ma­jori­ties in the House and Se­nate.

So what does that mean? Could there be le­gal mar­i­juana for recre­ational use? Pritzker said on the cam­paign trail he is for it and in an in­ter­view said it could be a rev­enue source to help bal­ance the state’s bud­get. Speaker Mike Madi­gan has re­cently given his bless­ing to le­gal­iz­ing weed.

Mar­i­juana is le­gal in Illi­nois for med­i­cal use. A poll from the Paul Si­mon Pub­lic Pol­icy In­sti­tute says 66 per­cent of res­i­dents want mar­i­juana le­gal­ized.

Pritzker in an in­ter­view said he es­ti­mates mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion could gen­er­ate hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for state cof­fers.

“There are rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties for the state like le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana and that has the op­por­tu­nity to bring $350 mil­lion to $ 700 mil­lion in rev­enue maybe as much as $1 bil­lion, not to men­tion the jobs that will be cre­ated with dis­pen­saries and pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties,” Pritzker said.

A study by the Illi­nois Eco­nomic Pol­icy In­sti­tute re- leased ear­lier this month es­ti­mated $525 mil­lion in new tax rev­enue a year in the state and pro­duce a $1 bil­lion an­nual eco­nomic im­pact.

Pritzker said le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana could be a key in bal­anc-

ing the state bud­get.

Pritzker also said there could be and sports bet­ting, gam­ing ex­pan­sion could be con­sid­ered. He added the state’s econ­omy also needs to grow.

“If we can grow jobs and bring busi­nesses to the state, we’ll bring rev­enue to the state with­out rais­ing any taxes, and sec­ond are ef­fi­cien­cies we can bring to state govern­ment that haven’t been brought be­fore,” Pritzker said.


Also dur­ing the cam­paign, Pritzker called for a pro­gres­sive in­come tax in the state.

In the days af­ter the elec­tion, Pritzker said he would not push for an im­me­di­ate tax in­crease, or do­ing an ar­ti­fi­cial pro­gres­sive in­come tax by rais­ing the rate but putting in place ex­emp­tions and tax cred­its.

State Rep. Jay Hoff­man, D-Swansea, said even with Democrats in con­trol, they should work with the GOP on such im­por­tant is­sues.

“Even though we have a su­per-ma­jor­ity, we need to en­gage the Repub­li­cans and work to­gether to fix this bud­get cri­sis and this bud­get stale­mate that’s gone on for too long,” Hoff­man said.

The state went through a two-year bud­get im­passe where out­go­ing Gov.

Bruce Rauner and the leg­is­la­ture were un­able to come to a bud­get agree­ment. Ul­ti­mately the Gen­eral As­sem­bly, with the help of Re­pub­li­can leg­is­la­tors, over­rode Rauner’s veto of a spend­ing plan and in­come tax in­crease.

“You can point fin­gers, and I can tell you what I be­lieve, but it doesn’t do any good right now,” Hoff­man said. “We have to ad­dress the bud­get, we’ll have to go that in a bi­par­ti­san man­ner and I think we’ll do that in a way that puts us long term on the road to hav­ing bud­get san­ity, a fis­cal re­al­ity that’s not spend­ing be­yond our means and do it across party lines be­ing fair across all re­gions across the state.”

He does ex­pect a cap­i­tal bill to ad­dress roads and bridges and add ca­pac­ity to help meet needs and spur eco­nomic growth. Money could also go to schools, Hoff­man said.

“I’m hope­ful that’s go­ing to hap­pen. Get the bud­get un­der con­trol, make tough de­ci­sions where they need to be made, cuts where there have to be cuts, do it in a fair ba­sis and also pro­vide a jobs and in­fra­struc­ture bill,” Hoff­man said.

How­ever, pay­ing for a cap­i­tal bill still would need to be de­ter­mined.


Hoff­man also cited a gam­ing ex­pan­sion, which could be ben­e­fi­cial to Fair­mount Race Track, as well as sports bet­ting and mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion.

“You can save money by re­struc­tur­ing some of the debt the state has, and treat the bonds and debt the way busi­nesses would when you can fa­vor­ably fi­nance, and I think that should hap­pen,” Hoff­man said.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Wa­ter­loo, said he ex­pected a tax in­crease to come down the pike.

“The era of di­vided govern­ment is cer­tainly over at this point,” Schimpf said. “The Democrats do con­trol all branches of govern­ment. I would ex­pect them to fol­low through what gover­nor elect Pritzker promised dur­ing the cam­paign, which was an ex­pan­sion of govern­ment, an ex­pan­sion of spend­ing. Now I hope that they will seek to work with the Repub­li­cans, and take our in­put a lit­tle bit. I think the peo­ple of Illi­nois, they don’t want par­ti­san­ship. They want us to come to­gether to find so­lu­tions.”

“I don’t know how we in­crease spend­ing by $10 bil­lion with­out rais­ing taxes. I like to re­duce state spend­ing, but that doesn’t seem to be the po­si­tion of gover­nor elect Pritzker,” Schimpf added.

Pritzker’s tran­si­tion ef­forts and tran­si­tion com­mit­tee in­cludes for­mer Re­pub­li­can gover­nor

Jim Edgar and Re­pub­li­can leg­isla­tive leader Chris­tine Radogno, ad­di­tions that make state Rep. Char­lier Meier, R-Okawville, happy.

“I don’t want taxes to go up, I want to go on to keep work­ing to bring busi­ness in. J.B. has been in busi­ness his whole life, hope­fully we could keep bring­ing busi­ness in,” Meier said.

Meier said he hopes to have a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with gover­nor’s of­fice.

“We want to keep jobs grow­ing and we have to keep mov­ing for­ward on that,” Meier said.


How­ever, with the Demo­cratic su­per-ma­jori­ties in place, as well as a Demo­cratic gover­nor, it might mean an­other thing may be in play: sta­bil­ity.

“My hope is we can ac­com­plish sta­bil­ity in govern­ment and to make sure the most needy among our state are in fact funded with a re­li­able stream of govern­ment re­sources,” said state Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithon. “Ob­vi­ously se­niors as well as schools, ed­u­ca­tion. I think what the state has been some­what lack­ing over last four years is a sense of sta­bil­ity.”

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