Bailey and Pritzker face off in agriculture forum with accusations of lying

Illinois gubernatorial candidates were quizzed Wednesday about their farming-related policies at an outhouse on a McLean County farm.

Governor JB Pritzker’s message was one of optimism, portraying himself as the state’s “chief marketing officer”. His challenger, State Sen. Darren Bailey, a Republican from Xenia, told the room full of farmers that Illinois was in a “dire streak” that needed “farmer power” to fix it.

The Illinois Agriculture Legislative Roundtable — organized by a coalition of more than 100 state agricultural stakeholders — was held at Schuler Farms in rural Lexington. The event was moderated by Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr.

Pritzker highlighted his administration’s sweeping infrastructure bill, defended his signature on a massive decarbonization bill, and highlighted the progress toward fiscal stability the state has seen during his tenure.

Bailey, meanwhile, sought to discredit the state’s fiscal progress, dismissed the energy bill as a collection of “signals of virtue” and said Illinois was starting to look like Baghdad.

The last comment referred to the Climate and Fair Jobs Act, signed into law by Pritzker last year, which aims to put 1 million electric vehicles on national roads by 2030 and take electricity generators offline. carbon-emitting energy in the state by 2045.

The law aims to accomplish this through massive taxpayer subsidies for renewable and nuclear energy and the forced closure of fossil fuel power plants over the next two decades.

Bailey said the law has led to a threat of brownouts in areas of southern Illinois that are part of the MISO regional transmission organization that purchases power capacity for 15 states. MISO officials, however, testified at a committee hearing earlier this year that the early retirement of fossil fuel power plants out of state, not the passage of CEJA, has led to higher prices for energy in the state and warnings of potential brownouts.

“JB Pritzker’s energy policies are little more than impractical signals of virtue and cannot succeed with the speed of his promises,” he said. “We all want a clear plan, but JB bet the farm, he bet our farms, and he threw snake eyes every time.”

Pritzker pointed to rising energy prices downstate at MISO.

“MISO fell at work,” he said. “That’s why Illinois has had to pick up the pace of solar and wind power and make sure we’re producing more power, not less. This is what the Climate and Fair Employment Act does. It helps us produce more energy.

It was also over the energy bill that Pritzker accused Bailey of lying to forum members about one of the bill’s provisions that the Illinois Farm Bureau had strongly contested.

The point of contention was eminent domain, a process that allows governments to acquire private property while giving the owner little power other than to negotiate a price.

While the climate bill was ultimately stripped of provisions that would have given counties the power to invoke eminent domain for wind and solar projects, the final bill included a provision allowing a private transmission line to invoke authority in seven counties.

Democratic lawmakers at the time said the language, included on page 673 of the public law, applies to the Grain Belt Express, a transmission line owned by private company Invenergy. The wording of the bill states that a project the size of Grain Belt “shall be considered” a line for public use, giving the company the ability to invoke eminent domain if necessary.

The counties named in the bill are Pike, Scott, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Cumberland and Clark.

Although Bailey said he thought the bill forced coal and natural gas to disconnect too soon, the eminent domain provision was enough for him to vote against it.

Pritzker, in his forum discussion, incorrectly claimed that any eminent domain language was removed from the bill. Asked by a reporter after the forum about the Grain Belt Express provision, Pritzker said he was “talking about eminent domain in a broad sense.”

“What I heard was eminent domain, and it was really taken out of CEJA on the very last day,” he said.

Invenergy, meanwhile, held town halls and said eminent domain would be a last resort, with the vast majority of their interactions with landlords ending out of court.

While the energy bill was a major topic of conversation, the candidates also tackled a number of other issues, from agricultural subsidies to the availability of broadband in rural areas to infrastructure.

Pritzker continued to tout the $45 billion infrastructure bill that includes money for broadband infrastructure and all modes of transportation. It’s a program that Bailey opposed when he was in the General Assembly.

“We’re going to build our roads and bridges, our airports and our ports across the state of Illinois so you can more easily get your goods to market,” Pritzker said. “Take note that the majority of the dollars we invest in infrastructure are invested in the downstate.”

Bailey, meanwhile, continued to argue that state finances can be improved with “zero-based budgeting,” a concept of justifying every dollar spent up front rather than deferring the costs of a previous fiscal year.

He said he would fill government agencies with businessmen.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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