Pritzker mentions Barrington neighborhood's pride flags in inaugural address
Gov. J.B. Pritzker promised action on legalizing marijuana and instituting a graduated income tax Monday in an inaugural address that used a suburban neighborhood as an example of hope and tolerance.
When someone stole the rainbow flag Casey Handal and Zadette Rosado flew at their Barrington home and replaced it with an American flag in December, neighbor Kim Filian put a pride flag in her yard in support.
The gesture caught fire, and "soon there were pride flags everywhere -- a place that hate had tried to fill was conquered by love instead," Pritzker said.
The 53-year-old Chicago Democrat and heir to the Hyatt hotel chain takes over from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, putting the executive branch and legislature in one party's hands.
In the past 140 years, the 74-44 Democratic House majority is second only to the party's strength in 1965-67, and the Senate's 40 Democrats to 19 Republicans matches the 2013-15 count and, as a percentage, falls behind only the Democrats' 1935-37 majority. Chicago Democrat Michael Madigan took the gavel last week for his 18th term as House speaker, a tenure covering all but two years since 1983 and making him the longest-serving speaker of a state House in U.S. history.
"May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe we can make a difference in this world," Pritzker said.
As Illinois faces debt of historic proportions, Pritzker promised to follow through on his campaign pledge to shift from a flat tax to a progressive one that taxes people based on income levels.
"The current tax system is simply unsustainable," Pritzker said. "Others have lied to you about that fact. I won't. The future of Illinois depends on the passage of a fair income tax."
The change will be a heavy lift and requires a constitutional amendment. Pritzker warned Republicans that "if you lead with partisanship and scare tactics you will be met with considerable political will."
Republicans hit back with Illinois GOP Party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett warning, "We won't be afraid to speak out against the latest policy disasters Illinois Democrats are embracing."
Republican Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills said "a progressive tax is a code phrase for a massive tax hike. We should cut Illinois taxes, not raise them."
Pritzker also pledged to prioritize legalizing recreational marijuana "in the interests of keeping the public safe from harm, expanding true justice in our criminal justice system, and advancing economic inclusion."
Legalization has provoked pushback from suburban state's attorneys like Robert Berlin in DuPage County, Joe McMahon in Kane County and Patrick Kenneally in McHenry County.
Some Democrats including Des Plaines Rep. Marty Moylan are leery of the plan. "We have to slow the process down," Moylan said.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.