Picture by Stephen J. Serio
Speaking to a friendly business group here in Chicago, the state’s new GOP governor appeared to pull no punches and signaled no interest in compromise—and, if anything, he seemed to lengthen the list of things on his agenda.
“We have a moral duty to act,” Rauner told the Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing. “We have a duty to minimize how much we have to take from you. . . .That money belongs to taxpayers.”
Right now, Rauner said, “the unions control everything. There is not a school district in America that can withstand a strike of over a week.” The result, especially here in Illinois, is “higher taxes. Deficit spending. It’s a conflict of interest we’ve got to take care of.”
Alluding to “tough votes” that will occur within a month or two in Springfield, Rauner said “special interests” are “yelling and screaming and trying to intimidate the process.” But they have so weakened the Illinois economy that a “crisis has created the opportunity for structural change.”
Rauner called for five changes in particular: “real reform” of the state’s worker compensation system; tort reform to prevent trial lawyers from controlling the judiciary through campaign contributions; trimming the state’s “uncompetitive” unemployment insurance program; a freeze of at least two years on “the nation’s highest property taxes”; and “allowing local governments to decide for themselves” whether to ban closed union shops at private employers.
The latter is particularly contentious, but Rauner said, “Many employers won’t come to a closed-shop state.” The law allowing unions to compel membership and payment of dues is a reason Illinois has been losing tens of thousands of factory jobs a year and Indiana, a right-to-work state, has been gaining them. Illinois employers “certainly aren’t going over there for the weather,” he quipped.
ADDING TO HIS TO-DO LIST
To that agenda—identical to items Rauner has been talking about for months—the governor appeared to add opposition to a graduated income tax. Even though no such tax plan appears to be under serious legislative review in Springfield now, imposing one is a bad idea that would hurt Illinois’ economy, just like it has in New York and California, he argued.
The problem is a shortage of will, not revenue, said Rauner, who allowed the state’s temporary income tax surcharge to partially lapse on Jan. 1.
“We’ve got to fix how we spend, to control how much we spend,” he added later, returning to his anti-union theme. “Crisis creates opportunity.”
Rauner’s comments came on the same day that a super PAC he’s assembled to push his agenda reported a $4 million check from real estate investor Sam Zell—like Rauner one of the richest residents of the state and one who has gained personally from the lowering of the personal income tax rate.
But Rauner described his agenda as “not partisan” and portrayed himself as “a business guy” who is just trying to restore balance to Springfield.
As he has with increasing frequency of late, Rauner declined to answer reporters’ questions after his talk.
Original Article: Crain’s Chicago Business http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20150427/BLOGS02/150429826/rauner-moral-duty-to-take-illinois-back-from-unions-corrupt-insiders