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As Biden acknowledges difficulty in selling his economic agenda to the public, Pritzker is enlisted to help

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As President Joe Biden acknowledged difficulties in selling his economic agenda to a distracted public, the White House enlisted Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday to pitch a plan that includes one idea familiar in Illinois — higher taxes for the wealthy.

On a White House-sponsored call with the media, Pritzker was joined by David Kamin, deputy director of the National Economic Council, and touted the early success of Biden pandemic relief proposals, among them allowing the state to make major investments in child care and early childhood education.

Pritzker also pitched elements of Biden’s plan for American families, which includes provisions to help pay for child care through the use of tax credits and implementing universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. The package would be paid for by reversing some Trump-era tax cuts, raising taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals while providing tax cuts to working and middle-class residents.

It’s not an unfamiliar argument for Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, who spent more than $58 million of his own money on an unsuccessful effort to replace Illinois’ flat-rate income tax with a graduated tax that would put a bigger levy on higher incomes.

“Well, you know I believe that we should give a break to working-class Americans, to middle-class Americans, and so it’s very important to me to try to shape a tax system that is fairer. That’s what I was trying to do,” Pritzker said Friday.

Governor JB Pritzker joined the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and community leaders to announce significant investments to expand workforce training and support Illinois’ continued economic recovery from the pandemic. The new initiatives include a $40 million workforce recovery grant program aimed to get more jobseekers back to work, while helping sectors impacted most by COVID-19. The funding will expand workforce training, job training and support services as well as covering basic expenses that are barriers to those seeking employment.

“I’m glad that the federal government is going at this. I’m glad that the president is,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to ask, especially after this very, very difficult COVID-inspired recess, that, as people are recovering, who should pay to help us recover more? Is it middle-class, working-class people or is it people who can most afford it?”

The Biden administration said its proposal would provide tax cuts to 50 million working- or middle-class Americans, with no one earning less than $400,000 paying higher taxes. The White House said the nation’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals pay an income tax rate well below that of the average American.

Pritzker’s efforts to promote Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda came only days before the president is scheduled to visit Chicago to promote his order requiring large companies to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested. Pritzker has been a loyal Biden supporter and will attend Wednesday’s event.

The first-term governor’s public pitch for Biden’s economic plan also comes amid serious differences over spending and priorities among progressives and moderates among Democrats, who control Congress, as well as opposition from congressional Republicans.

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Kamin said outreach to supportive elected officials was “critical to getting this agenda approved but then, also implemented.”

The comments came after Biden, at a White House news conference, expressed confidence that his agenda would win congressional support though it may not come quickly. But he also appeared frustrated at his inability to sell the features of the proposals to the public.

“I’d be out making the case about what my plan contained and it’s been very much curtailed by a whole range of things,” Biden said, citing natural disasters and the resurgence of the coronavirus.

“The problem is, with everything happening, not everybody knows what’s in that plan,” he said. “For example, all those women out there who are not able to go back to work because they have a dependent grandparent or a parent or a dependent child who needs help, or they can’t find day care … There’s a solution in the proposal that I put forward.”

Pritzker said he believed child care and early childhood education are a central focus of his efforts in Illinois.

“Whether you want to support the current workforce, lower crime rates, increase high school graduation, improve the health of our people or close the gender wage gap, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to start than quality child care and early childhood education,” Pritzker said.

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