Rauner Visits, Deflects Budget Questions

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By Edan Schultz
By Benjy Jeffords

CHESTER -- Candidate for governor Bruce Rauner spent Wednesday on a campaign swing through Southern Illinois.  

His visit comes as the Republican faces growing criticism for failing to lay out a detailed budget proposal, while attacking Governor Quinn's plan.
     
Rauner began his Southern Illinois tour in Mt. Vernon, and made several stops in Washington and Randolph counties. In Chester, he visited workers at the Gilster-Mary Lee plant, laying out his pro-business, reform agenda.

"Our government in Springfield is not working for you and your family," Rauner told the workers, "We're not competitive, our regulations are hostile to business and our taxes are hostile to business."
     
But the candidate was not about to detail his tax and budget plan.  He said the proposal will be revealed in the coming weeks and months, but deflected questions about a specific timeline. 

"People say we want it today. Well you know what we've got five months until the election, and our plan is going to be crystal clear before the election," contended Rauner.
  
The candidate does say he wants to see the higher income tax expire at the end of the year.  The governor argues it will force devastating cuts, and Moody's credit agency suggested just this week it would erase the state's fiscal progress.

"They are making that statement because of lack of structural reform," Rauner said, "We need to reform cost structure and spending in Springfield and change that entire structure cause the government is too burdensome, inefficient, ineffective."

The owners of Gilster Mary Lee are confident Rauner's plan will be a step in the right direction.

"We're very concerned about the business climate in Illinois," said Gilster President Don Welge.

The food producer employs 1600 people in Randolph County. Welge says each of them costs $600 more a year than workers in Missouri because of expensive worker's compensation and unemployment insurance.  

"That's a terrible deterrent to expand when you have that weight of expense hanging over your head," Welge suggested.

He also worries about plans to dramatically raise the minimum wage, saying it could force the company to move, or close Illinois plants.

"I'm not against people working their way up, but I'm against them walking in off the street and collecting $10 an hour. We just can't afford that," Welge said.

Bruce Rauner says he backs slowly raising the minimum wage as part of a package that cuts taxes and regulations on business. Gov. Quinn supports the increase to $10 an hour.  Illinois voters will have their say this fall through a non-binding referendum on the November ballot.

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