When Sen. Jason Barickman returns to work for the 101st Illinois General Assembly, which will have its inauguration next Wednesday, he understands he’ll face a vastly different political landscape: while the Democratic Party has had majority control over both chambers for the last four years, incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had the power of veto over bills that made it to his desk.
    Now, however, Democrats own a supermajority in both the state house and senate, with Rauner-ouster and Democratic governor-elect J.B. Pritzker to boot.
    But Barickman, R-Bloomington, held hope that those across the aisle would at least offer Republicans a seat at the table and not approve spending bills unilaterally. He also believed that there were areas of policymaking in which bipartisanship was a possibility.
    “The dynamic of Springfield is going to go through a total overhaul because Democrats have total control of our government,” he said. “They’ve got the governor’s office and supermajority control in both legislative chambers. That doesn’t mean my priorities have changed, which remain fixing the financial havoc that has long existed in our state and enacting reforms to attract jobs to grow our economy; it does mean that it may be more difficult to accomplish those goals.”
    Barickman said that he didn’t think the public “knew much about about Pritzker outside of his campaign,” adding that Pritzker’s campaign statements would make it “incredibly difficult for him to lead and govern in the manner that we need him to.” As an example, Barickman cited Pritzker’s apparent support of a “liberal-progressive movement that’s crossing the country.”
    “(The movement) certainly has a toehold in Illinois, and I think that Pritzker really appealed to that movement in campaign, with his tax-and-spend policies that I think put Illinois in the financial position we’re in,” he said. “In the campaign against Gov. Rauner, he promised to spend billions of new dollars and proposes to pay for some, but not all of that, through tax increases, possibly through a change to the constitution to a graduated income tax.”
    The constitutional amendment the Bloomington senator referred to was the potential change from a flat income tax across all earning brackets to a progressive tax, the rate of which would increase as more was earned. With a Democratic supermajority, 60 percent in both houses, this is now a possibility as is required by the Illinois Constitution.
    Illinois is one of only eight states to have a flat income tax, and half of those faced budgetary crises as recently as the start of FY 2017. Barickman, however, believes a progressive tax would be harmful to the middle class.
    “If that would be the case, I think you’d see our middle class voting with their feet, as in leaving the state,” he said.
    But Barickman nevertheless believed that the upcoming iteration of the General Assembly had room for both parties to work together.
    “There’s the budget, which I think first and foremost, is an opportunity for us (to work together),” he said. “I think the public expects us to work together because they fear what happens when a budget is advanced on a partisan vote as a result of closed-door negotiations, with one part negotiating amongst itself. It’s an area where we can have a discussion and have input.
    “Another area that I think there’s room to talk is legislative mapping and districting. Pritzker purports to be a supporter of the fair map initiative. That effort has widespread support around the state, with some 600,000 voters signing a petition saying that they wanted fair maps. That initial has broad support from all geographic, ethnic and political reaches of our state, as well as legislators of both parties.
    “It’s now time for (Pritzker) to put his mouth where his money is, and in order to do so, he’d have to break from the status quo and the Madigan-led effort to quash those fair maps. I think there’s no more significant issue than that one that would demonstrate to the public that Pritzker is an independent leader of this state.”