PEORIA — Balancing Illinois' budget will be job No. 1 for JB Pritzker once he's inaugurated governor.
Now the governor-elect, Pritzker spoke to the Journal Star about his priorities after his January inauguration, and what he's focusing on during his transition.
Calling the budget a "moral document," Pritzker said he intends to use the next two months of transition time to ensure that he and his incoming administration are prepared to present their budget proposal in February.
He acknowledged that there are many challenges facing Illinois, but that without a balanced budget it's difficult to address any of them.
The team that will coordinate the transition is led by Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton and includes former Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican.
The latter has helped advise him already on the importance of bringing people "with real expertise into the government with me," Pritzker said.
The governor-elect has also begun to reach out to both GOP leaders in the Legislature as well as Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan. He stressed that he wants to work across the aisle and "end the partisan rancor in Springfield."
He wants Republicans at the table during discussions, but also believes that Democrats in the Legislature, who will now have supermajorities in both chambers, "share common values" on pushing for college affordability, health care expansion and other similar issues.
Pritzker also said a Peoria native — who served in the upper echelon of the campaign and now is its transition director — conceived the strategy that featured more downstate visits and listening sessions.
Nikki Budzinski pushed the visits "from the very beginning when I was just thinking about running," Pritzker said.
"I really believe downstate Illinois hasn't been listened to," Pritzker said of recent leaders.
He credited that attention and focus on downstate issues, in part, with helping the campaign win the vote in Peoria County — something that no Democrat has done since the 1968 governor's race.