The first of two Democrats to announce a formal campaign for governor says he wants a "new deal" for Illinois. Ameya Pawar visited Normal and talked about his vision for the state in a Sound Ideas interview.
"I'm running for governor because I believe we need to have a more fair, just society, one that focuses on social justice," said Pawar. His main platform consists of adjusting the funding formula for public education to make it more equitable, universal child care for working families, criminal justice reform and an infrastructure repair plan similar to the public works program developed by President Franklin Roosevelt following the Great Depression.
"We have to stop fighting over scraps," Pawar added. "We shouldn't be in a place where one community is fighting another, where downstate communities are fighting Chicago, where one university is pitted against the next, social services are on the verge of closure. All over what? Busting unions and reducing wages and benefits?" Pawar asked.
Many Democrats say the budget stalemate is a result of Governor Bruce Rauner's refusal to untie talks with unions from the process. Rauner insists the changes will create what he calls a more business-friendly state.
"Never in history has cutting working people's salaries helped working people," said Pawar. "I'm running for governor because it's time to unite people rather than divide them on based on race, class and geography."
Pawar insists there is support to pay for a huge capital bill. When asked if there is the political will in Springfield to pass something as massive as a major public works program, Pawar said he believes there is.
"I think there is the political will amongst the people. We have another wave of automation coming in trucking and supply chain. We can't get caught flat-footed when trucking is the easiest way for a middle-aged male without a college degree to get a shot at a middle class wage. Once these jobs are gone, if we think we're nervous about what we see nationally in the rhetoric, it's going to get worse. We need to start investing in people today," Pawar said.
Major education funding reform currently remains hung-up in Springfield. And there have been decades of studies and property tax-swap proposals. None have advanced. Pawar says he's resolved to make the change.
"We have to spend more on districts that don't have wealthy property tax bases," Pawar said. "That's just about every community outside of a few enclaves. That's not a Democrat or Republican issue, I look at this as a human capital and an equity issue," he said.
Pawar was first elected as Chicago alderman in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. His parents immigrated to the United States from India in the 1970s.
Pawar said he intends to campaign in every county in Illinois.
Currently, the only other announced Democrat for governor is former U of I Trustee Chair Chris Kennedy, a Chicago businessman. Another wealthy Chicago businessman, J. B. Pritzker, is reportedly weighing a bid. Monday, central Illinois U. S Representative Cheri Bustos announced she would not enter the race.
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