Democrat J.B. Pritzker said that if state incentives are to be used to lure companies like Amazon's second headquarters to Illinois, the benefits should be spread around the state, including in low-income neighborhoods.
Pritzker was in Moline to receive the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., on Monday, a day after some of his rivals for the party's nomination for governor raised questions at a candidates' forum about using tax incentives to lure Amazon.
The city of Chicago is aggressively pursuing the second headquarters, which the company has said will mean up to 50,000 jobs. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner also is seeking to recruit the company.
Some progressives reject the idea of using tax incentives to entice large corporations. But Pritzker said that Illinois is competing with other states and the jobs come with high salaries. Still, he said revenues gained from big economic development projects using state incentives need to be felt in counties and communities beyond just where they locate — as well as in low-income neighborhoods where they do settle.
"That doesn't mean, by the way, that Amazon is going to hire people necessarily in Cairo. It does mean that the state benefiting from that new headquarters, the revenue for example that comes in from that new headquarters, needs to go in part to communities all across the state," he said.
Bustos said Pritzker would pay attention to Downstate communities, not just Cook County. Her endorsement comes on the heels of the Illinois Democratic Chairmen's Association over the weekend.
Republicans attacked Pritzker for the chairmens' endorsement, saying it was the work of House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Republicans have been trying to tie Pritzker to Madigan. But Pritzker, who has been dogged repeatedly by questions about Madigan, told reporters in Moline that he had not been endorsed by Madigan — nor had the speaker even told him privately that he has his support.
Pritzker said that he is an independent candidate, but he did not directly respond when asked if Madigan had too much power. "I don't get to choose, as you know, who the speaker of the House is or who the president of the Senate is," he said.
Pritzker, who appeared with Bustos at the opening of his campaign's new regional office in Moline, said that agriculture and manufacturing are a key part of growing jobs. He also took a swipe at Rauner's stewardship of the state's economy, saying there has been little job growth and what there has been hasn't spread "south of I-80."
He added that Rauner isn't helping to lure companies to the state because he "bad mouths the state everywhere he goes."
Rauner's campaign responded that the governor is "fighting to grow jobs by pushing job-creating economic reforms and property tax relief but Mike Madigan and J.B Pritzker only want to protect the status quo."