CHICAGO (CBS) — Democratic gubernatorial nominee JB Pritzker is strongly defending Illinois’ generous state pensions at a time when some tax watchdogs say those pension payouts are bankrupting the state.

Big pension payouts, like the nearly $600,000 to UIC Dr. Leslie Heffez or the $250,000 pension for retired state senator Arthur Berman, infuriate tax watchdog James Tobin.

“The bankruptcy of Illinois is caused by these lavish, gold-plated pensions,” Tobin said. “They’re outlandish, ridiculous. They’re legalized theft.”

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, more than 20 cents of every Illinois tax dollar goes to pensions.

When former Gov. Pat Quinn raised taxes by $30 billion over four years, most of that went to pay pensions.

When lawmakers raised income taxes $5 billion last summer, all of it went to pensions.

Tobin wants a constitutional amendment to cut pension payments.

“It’s an immoral system and these pensions are legalized theft,” he said.

But JB Pritzker opposes any pension cut amendment.

“[Governor] Bruce Rauner is the one who’s created this aura that you can’t pay the pensions.  It’s our obligation to step up to the plate and pay those,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker instead wants a constitutional amendment to raise taxes thru a progressive income tax.

“The whole idea is to protect the middle class and those striving to get there and ask the wealthiest to pay more,” Pritzker said.

If elected, Pritzker thinks it would take at least two years to get a progressive income tax on the books.