By JOHN O’CONNOR, AP Political Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. JB Pritzker and his Republican challenger Darren Bailey used an hour-long debate Thursday to come up with different ways to call each other a “liar” with Election Day less than five weeks away.
The Democratic incumbent and the Southern Illinois state senator disagreed over the other’s handling or stance on the state budget, assault-type weapons regulation, abortion and crime — particularly the overhaul of the justice system that Pritzker signed into law last year as the SAFE-T Act.
For Pritzker, the upstart Republican and relative legislative newcomer is a “hypocrite” on the issues for which he attacks the governor.
According to Bailey, Pritzker’s handling of crime, property taxes, and education “crushes” the state, “all because JB Pritzker is determined to become America’s most radical leftist governor.” … This man is dangerous.
Pritzker, elected in 2018 in the aftermath of a budget stalemate that left the state billions of dollars in debt, bragged to an audience at Illinois State University at Normal about how he paid down the debt and balanced the budget for four years. Bailey claimed Pritzker did so with federal COVID-19 pandemic relief money and by not paying the full amount needed to fund employee retirement systems.
Bailey claimed he would cut taxes with “reprioritization of spending” and zero-based budgeting. Pritzker said his stewardship of the budget has proven successful and with billions in debt paid off, his continued leadership could mean lower taxes in the future.
Pritzker said he would not repeat his 2020 attempt to change the constitutionally required flat income tax to force wealthier residents to pay more, saying his handling of finances had produced budget surpluses over the course of the year. of the last two years.
Pritzker is heavily favored in the race and has significantly passed Bailey. The 57-year-old billionaire equity investor and philanthropist had $60 million in the bank on June 30 and has contributed $20 million of his own money since. Bailey had just under $2 million in hand last summer and has since raised $360,000.
Noting his fundraising for Democrats nationwide and a trip last spring to New Hampshire, Bailey dramatically pulled out of his waistcoat pocket a piece of paper he said was a pledge he signed to serve. a full four-year term and not ducking to run for president. Pritzker ignored Bailey’s invitation to join the signing, but said he plans to complete a second term and supports the re-election of President Joe Biden.
Bailey, 56, a farmer from the southern Illinois town of Xenia, 154 miles east of St. Louis, sued Pritzker for felony in the state. Like many Republicans seeking an election this fall, he also took aim at the Pritzker-approved SAFE-T Act, an overhaul of the criminal justice system approved in early 2021 that attempts to thwart excessive police force, establishes new standards for policing – including expanding the use of body cameras – and ending the use of cash bail for suspects.
It means a “revolving door” for prisons across the state, Bailey said as Pritzker chimed in: “Lies. No more lies. He’s not telling the truth.”
“The criminal justice system that Darren Bailey and Republicans stand for is one that allows murderers, rapists and domestic abusers to buy their way out of jail,” Pritzker said. Among other criticisms, an Illinois Supreme Court panel recommended bail reform, noting the economic damage done to someone who cannot afford to pay.
Pritzker also called Thursday for a federal ban on assault-style weapons like those used in the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, saying “nobody should have that kind of firepower.” However, he defended that he did not have a statewide ban on assault-type weapons in place because the General Assembly set up a task force to study the matter. Pritzker’s defense came after he criticized Bailey for suggesting another issue — free community colleges — be explored with other state leaders.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion, Pritzker promised legislative action to strengthen access to abortion in Illinois, which already allows virtually unfettered access to abortion up to the point of fetal viability, with abortion being allowed after viability when the mother’s health or life is in danger.
On Thursday, Pritzker said he did not support changes allowing abortion beyond viability – around 24 to 26 weeks.
“The law that we have in place now…is what we need to keep in place,” Pritzker said.
The Democrat has promoted Bailey’s opposition to abortion rights in numerous political ads, but Bailey reiterated on Thursday that he would not press the issue because she is unlikely to win the endorsement of a Democratic legislature.
“My focus will be on crime, taxes and education,” Bailey said. “…JB Pritzker wants to spread fear and put all this nonsense out there (about abortion) that can’t be changed anyway. And it has to stop. We need to focus on uniting this state.
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