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During NIU visit, Pritzker reacts to Madigan indictment

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Jenna Dooley
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J.B. Pritzker joins DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes during a visit to NIU on March 3, 2022

Illinois’ Governor says he is cooperating in the federal investigation into former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

J.B. Pritzker visited Northern Illinois University on Thursday to talk about lowering the cost of higher education, but he voluntarily addressed the elephant in the room — an indictment handed down against Michael Madigan on charges of bribery and racketeering.

“The conduct alleged in this indictment is deplorable and a stark violation of the public’s trust," Pritzker said. "Michael Madigan must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Madigan maintains his innocence. Pritzker says he answered questions from federal investigators and has not been accused himself of any wrongdoing. He says he last spoke with Madigan earlier this week regarding changes to the Illinois Arts Council.

Meanwhile, a former northern Illinois Republican representative says he is not surprised to hear that Michael Madigan has been indicted on racketeering and bribery charges.

Bob Pritchard says it wasn’t a matter of “if” there would be an investigation into the former House Speaker.

“I think it was a matter of when," Pritchard said Thursday during Pritzker's visit to NIU. "The federal government was out to look for the evidence and they found it. The thing that has always troubled me though is that we have a legal system in Illinois and what was the role of our Attorney General? You go back to Governor Blagojevich. We knew there was corruption there and there was never any state involvement and now we haven’t had any involvement in the Madigan situation.”

Pritchard served in the Illinois House from 2003 until 2018. He presently serves on the NIU Board of Trustees.

Pritzker also talked about his proposed budget’s investment in higher education.

The governor said three of his top education goals entering office were making Illinois a Top-5 state in federal student assistance, increasing direct state support to institutions and boosting MAP grants by 50%.

“After the progress of the last few years, and with the passage of this year's budget hoped for, over the next month, we will have achieved all three of those objectives," he said.

The governor’s budget would increase Monetary Award Program or MAP Grant funding by $122 million. His plan also expands MAP eligibility to students in short-term certificate programs.

The pandemic had hindered Pritzker’s education policy goals. MAP grants were flat-funded in 2020 and went up just $28 million last year.

MAP grant awards, which are geared towards students with financial needs, can vary in size from $300 to over $5,000.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.
Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.