Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday said he’s “angry” and “disgusted” by state lawmakers accused of stealing and lying — and he vowed to take steps to root out the bad apples he blamed for “a corruption tax that sits on top of everybody in the state.”
Pritzker didn’t mince words about lawmakers, like recently indicted state Rep. Luis Arroyo, who find themselves under the federal spotlight in a sprawling investigation.
“I’m angry, frankly, and I’m disgusted by these people who take advantage of the public who take public office and think that this is OK, that the stealing, the lying, that doing business that’s taking away from the public trough… taxpayers and voters put elected officials in office to safeguard them, to safeguard your resources to make sure that we’re doing the right things so that you have the opportunity to succeed,” Pritzker said Wednesday at an event organized by the news website Axios.
“I’m glad that these people are being caught and sent away. It’s time.”
The event, which focused on the state of the American city, also featured Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx; Eddie Bocanegra, senior director of READI Chicago; and Heather Higginbottom, president of JPMorgan Chase’s PolicyCenter.
On day three of a six-day veto session, Pritzker said his primary job was to make sure none of his vetoes was overriden. He said there aren’t many vetoes, so legislators can focus on Pritzker’s public safety pension consolidation bill which was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday.
So far, lawmakers have mostly been focused on the latest lawmaker to be hit with federal charges.
Arroyo was indicted Monday on a federal bribery charge. A state senator wore a wire, according to a 13-page criminal complaint, and those conversations revealed the Illinois House of Representatives’ former assistant majority leader bribing the senator with monthly payments of $2,500 in exchange for moving along sweepstakes gaming legislation.
The longtime state representative joins a growing list of state lawmakers who are under federal scrutiny. Last month, feds executed a search warrant on the home and Springfield offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval.
Sandoval’s colleague, Sen. Tom Cullerton, pleaded not guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor union, one count of lying about a health care matter, and 39 counts of embezzlement from a labor union; he’s accused of ghost payrolling the Teamsters union.
The feds also have indicted 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke on racketeering charges, a case helped by former Ald. Daniel Solis wearing a wire. And Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) is the subject of another federal grand jury investigation.
Pritzker is under federal investigation for a more than $330,000 property tax break he received on one of his Gold Coast mansions, WBEZ reported earlier this year. Pritzker said he had “no concerns at all” about that investigation.
Spokesman for the state’s Republican Party Joe Hackler said Pritzker’s “hypocrisy” is “stunning and should be addressed.”
“The Governor’s words ring hollow. He can’t pretend to clutch his pearls about those under federal investigation when he is currently the center of a federal probe himself,” Hackler said in a statement. “Pritzker should cut the act until he calls on the Mike Madigan, leader of the Illinois Democrat Crime Ring, to step down.”
Pritzker said there will be changes to state ethics laws to “root these people out” and the system needs to be fixed.
“You know, we have challenges in the state of Illinois … in some ways, I mean, I’m disgusted by all of what’s going on in this regard, and I also view it as they’re throwing obstacles in the way of us accomplishing pension consolidation and lowering taxes … and other things in the state,” Pritzker said. “There’s a corruption tax that sits on top of everybody in the state, and we need to get rid of it.”