The Old Train Depot in Carbondale was the latest stop for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar on Sunday before making his way to Cairo later in the day.
Pawar, a Chicago alderman, spoke to the crowd at the depot about how he believes in social justice, equity and fairness. He said he believes most people believe in those things, but Illinois’ current elected officials don’t represent those values.
“If we continue to elect people who hate government and the institutions they seek to represent, I don’t think our government on any level will reflect the values that we think it should,” he said.
Economically, Pawar said institutions, organizations and municipalities are fighting for scraps all throughout the state, and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to fix the problems isn’t a good one.
“This idea that if we simply bust unions and reduce people’s wages that somehow we will become a job-created panacea — I can’t think of a single time in history when hurting working people helped working people,” he said.
Pawar took another shot at Rauner, saying he doesn’t actually want a budget in Illinois and he needs to create a sense of chaos in Springfield, so he can look as if he’s working to fix the problems instead of creating them.
“Bruce Rauner does not want a budget. He needs the chaos, because he needs to run against what he believes is the establishment,” Pawar said. “He ran for office as an outsider, and he wants to run as an outsider when he’s already been in government.”
Pawar said his team is proposing a new deal for Illinois that doubles down on public institutions, universities and parks. He said his deal has four main points.
The first point would change the way the state funds public schools. He said no longer should the state just rely on property taxes to fund schools.
“If we rely solely on property taxes, we are going to have the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,” Pawar said. “We don’t cut the pie differently. We need a bigger pie so that we can fund schools equitably. Equity does not mean equal.”
Also, he said the state needs universal childcare.
“If we say we have family values, then we actually need to have family values,” he said. “Having a child shouldn’t put you out of work because of the cost of quality childcare.”
Pawar also said his deal would double down on infrastructure. He talked about providing Internet access to rural areas, rebuilding schools and roads in communities.
“There’s no better way to create a middle class than to put people to work investing in their own communities,” he said.
The final point of his deal is criminal justice reform. He said it takes a proactive approach.
“We can provide mental healthcare and social services in the communities and be proactive and invest in the community in the long term,” he said.
All of the things he outlined cost money, he said, but they are investments that will bring returns over the long-term.
“That means that when talking about raising revenue, we have to do it fairly. The wealthy have to pay their fair share. That is how we are going to pay for these things,” he said.
Other Democratic candidates for the governor’s office include: venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber and former University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Chris Kennedy.