CRYSTAL LAKE – Democratic Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy contends that he has a solution for the state’s struggling economy: education.
“I know how to arrest the dissent,” Kennedy told the Northwest Herald during a 45-minute conversation Tuesday with the newspaper’s Editorial Board. “That’s through the power of education.”
In recent months, Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, has stumped along the campaign trail, where he has called incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner “one of the worst governors in Illinois history.”
On Tuesday, Chris Kennedy traced this education philosophy to booming American tech hubs – including Austin, Texas; Boston; Akron, Ohio; and Silicon Valley – where large universities are cultivating and feeding a hungry economy.
“They’re all fueled by great universities,” Chris Kennedy said, “but those universities need to be fueled by a great K-12 pipeline.”
The businessman said much has changed since he graduated from college in the 1980s.
“My friends and I moved to where the jobs were,” Chris Kennedy said. “That’s not how the American economy works anymore. Today, the jobs move to where the highly educated young people are.”
A thriving economy, Chris Kennedy said, is rooted in a wide base of educated young people.
“If we give the world highly educated young people, the world will give us its jobs,” he said. “That’s the ticket out of here.”
Chris Kennedy touched on one of the issues pushing droves of residents to flee McHenry County and Illinois – crippling property taxes.
The Democrat’s fix for the property tax burden saddling residents across the state also is related to education.
“We rely on local property taxes to fund our schools,” he said. “No other state does it exactly like we do in Illinois.”
Chris Kennedy pointed to states such as Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota as models for how Illinois can handle its property taxes. In those states, education is paid for at the state level.
“If we have those examples of great education and low property taxes, why didn’t we do that here?” Chris Kennedy said. “If Democrats believe in that notion, why didn’t the Democrats do it when the Democrats had a supermajority of the state Senate, controlled a supermajority of the state House and controlled the governor’s mansion at the same time? Why didn’t we move from a property tax-based system to a system that relies on the state to fund our schools?”
The answer, he said, is a corrupt cadre of politicos pulling strings in Springfield.
Chris Kennedy targeted House Speaker Michael Madigan, a lawyer who also works for his tax appeal law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner.
“We have high property taxes in McHenry County because Mike Madigan makes money as a property tax appeals lawyer,” Chris Kennedy said. “That’s what’s going on.”
He said the state must migrate to a system that does not rely on property taxes.
“They’re preventing us from migrating to a system that will fully fund our schools and relieve the property taxes on places like McHenry County, and that needs to end,” Chris Kennedy said. “Get the dirty money out of politics. You’ll probably get the dirty politicians out of government.”
Chris Kennedy is fighting for the Democratic nomination against J.B. Pritzker, Daniel Biss, Bob Daiber, Tio Hardiman and Robert Marshall. The primary election is March 20.
• The Associated Press
contributed to this report.