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Gubernatorial Candidate Pawar Promotes Graduated Tax And Free University Tuition

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media
Chicago Alderman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar, talking to reporters at a campaign stop at the University of Illinois' Illini Union in Urbana.

Like most of the Democrats running for governor in Illinois, Ameya Pawersupports a graduated, or progressive, state income tax. The Chicago alderman promoted the idea during a campaign stop at the University of Illinois Urbana campus Thursday.

While Gov. Bruce Rauner says a graduated income tax would hurt the state’s economy, Pawar said it would do just the opposite.

“If we simply took Wisconsin’s tax code --- Scott Walker country --- and we placed it on top of Illinois’ tax code, we’d have seven billion more dollars per year,” said Pawar.”

Wisconsin is one of 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, which have a graduated income tax. Illinois is one of eight states with a flat, one-rate-for-all income tax.

Pawar says that new revenue from a graduated income tax would improve state government’s borrowing power, while paying for an ambitious multi-year capital development program.

Pawar said the capital development plan could help Illinois in multiple ways. Noting his own student loan debt, Pawar said he wanted to work towards free tuition at Illinois state universities. But he said states had stopped investing in state universities in recent years, and a vigorous capital development plan would be one way to start that investment up again.

The alderman talked about one capital proposal, to build a trauma center at the SIU College of Medicine at Springfield, which would give the campus the only trauma center in downstate Illinois.

Pawar said a similar capital investment at the University of Illinois would free up university funds for other projects, including lower tuition.

“Invest in the institution, and put more money into the capital infrastructure, so you can drive down the cost long term for kids,” said Pawar.

In addition, Pawar said a capital development plan would provide construction jobs that would boost the state’s economy.

Pawar’s visit to the University of Illinois began a 14-stop campaign swing around the state that wraps up on Sunday in Chicago. Except for that Chicago stop, Pawar planned to campaign in downstate and northern Illinois.

Other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor are state Sen. Daniel Biss, Madison County Regional Supt. of Schools Bob Daiber, former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman, former U of I Board Chairman Chris Kennedy, physician Robert Marshall, civil engineer & business owner Alex Paterakis and venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker.

On the Republican side, Gov. Rauner is being challenged by Chicago radio host William J. Kelly.