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State

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pritzker centers on middle class

The centerpiece of J.B. Pritzker’s campaign for Illinois governor is helping the middle class raise its standard of living.

The billionaire Democrat spent almost 40 minutes in a phone interview with Shaw Media’s Editorial Board on Friday talking about the path he believes will take him there.

Pritzker touched on the idea of a graduated income tax system that would raise taxes for rich people such as him and his Republican opponent, incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner. As it stands, he said, people in the middle class pay more income tax than they should.

“It’s not fair,” Pritzker said. “We should make it easier for middle-class families.”

An heir to the Hyatt hotels fortune, Pritzker recently was ranked by Forbes magazine as the third-wealthiest person in Illinois, with an estimated net worth of about $3.4 billion. That easily makes him the wealthiest person in the race, although Rauner is a multimillionaire who has put more than $50 million into his own campaign.

The Democrat previously served as chairman of the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and he is a vocal advocate for early childhood education, a cause to which he and his wife have donated significant amounts of money. His sister, Penny Pritzker, served as Commerce secretary under former President Barack Obama.

If he wins the election, Pritzker said, the majority of tax-paying people will get a tax break, and the wealthiest people in the state will pay more. Pritzker’s campaign has lacked details regarding his tax plan. The Democrat said it couldn’t be any worse than the current system that is driving Illinois residents to flee the state for more affordable living.

“We already have people choosing to leave, and we have this flat tax system,” Pritzker said.

A proponent of marijuana legalization, Pritzker said the move would be a great one with the right regulatory system that allows the state to create jobs and reform the criminal justice system that for so long has punished marijuana use.

Pritzker said he also would consider legalized sports betting if an equally strong regulatory system were in place.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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