Pritzker Puts Down Chicago-Downstate Separation Supporters In Budget Speech

Feb 21, 2020

In a call for unity during his annual budget address, Governor J.B. Pritzker called out lawmakers who have suggested severing Chicago from the rest of Illinois. It got a standing ovation, but not everyone was clapping.

Pritzker chastised a group of lawmakers who have been the most recent sponsors of the proposal. Cutting off Chicago, he argued, will not fix problems downstate:

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers an annual budget address to a room of state House and Senate lawmakers, constitutional officers and other dignitaries on Feb. 19
Credit Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

“Some of you need to stop pretending that one part of Illinois can exist without all the others," he told a combined state legislature on Wednesday. "We are one Illinois!”

But state Rep. Dan Caulkins of Decatur — one of the Republicans Pritzker was criticizing — did not feel chastised.

“We obviously live in the Governor’s head, or least the people that write his speeches," he said. "It’s the recognition; this is what we’re seeking.”

Caulkins said he's pleased his message is getting the governor’s attention.

“If it was just something that he could dismiss or brush, I doubt that he would have said anything," he argued. "We’re getting our message across: what’s happening here in this statehouse, it does not resonate well outside of a small northeastern part of Illinois.”

The Democratic majority, meanwhile, has not recognized the proposal. It’s never been called for a vote, and even most Republicans are not on board. Other Senate and House Republicans NPR Illinois spoke with agreed with Gov. Pritzker's broader call for unity.

Past proposals to separate Chicago from downstate Illinois have also failed to gain any traction.