DECATUR — The Bruce Rauner re-election campaign was in full force Monday morning at T/CCI Manufacturing in Decatur.
The Republican governor met with employees of the business and laid out a bullet list of priorities he hopes to accomplish next year and into a prospective second term in office. Those items included reducing regulations on small businesses, freezing property taxes across the state and allowing local voters the chance to raise or lower taxes through referendums, setting term limits for all lawmakers and rolling back “over time” the state income tax, which was raised this year as part of passing the first Illinois budget in more than two years.
“We’ve got some things done, but now is the time to do transformative things, really large things,” Rauner said during his visit to T/CCI, a company that manufactures compressors.
The pro-business, anti-establishment theme was similar to Rauner's past messaging, both as a candidate and as governor. Rauner targeted his frequent opponent, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, telling employees they should not support any candidate who would not unequivocally oppose voting for the Chicago Democrat to remain speaker.
Rauner later told reporters that he would push for lawmakers to gradually roll back the recently passed income tax increase, which raised the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. When asked, Rauner did not have an exact time frame for how long that would take, but said he believes it could gradually be lowered to at least 3 percent. To offset the loss of revenue, Rauner said he would push for pension or Medicaid reform, and that more money would flow into the state’s coffers if lawmakers passed workers’ compensation reform and other policies that would make the state more business-friendly.
Rauner brushed aside a question about the amount of turmoil within the state Republican Party sparked by his signature of HB40, which provides government funding of abortions for state workers and women on Medicaid. Despite several lawmakers coming out against the governor and throwing their support behind a possible primary challenge from state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, Rauner said reasonable people can disagree on certain issues, but that the points he laid out Monday should gather support from Democrats and Republicans.
“What we have to do is unite around what we can agree on, and we can agree on these four things,” Rauner said. “Us coming together, this is a movement ... This is about the people of Illinois pushing against the system.”
The stop was part of Rauner’s “Our Home, Our Fight Tour,” which will see him visit businesses across the state — he will be at Parr Instruments Company in Moline on Tuesday — talk with employees and reiterate how he hopes to improve the state’s economy as he heads into what could be a harsh election season next year.
While Rauner has struggled during his first term to pass his legislative agenda, T/CCI President Richard Demirjian said having a strong advocate for business in the governor’s mansion has helped his company.
Speaking to reporters after the tour, Demirjian said that since Rauner took office in 2015, T/CCI has invested more than $6 million to purchase new equipment and has grown its Illinois workforce, which includes about 125 employees at the Decatur facility. He credits part of that growth to knowing Rauner will have the company's back.
“With his philosophies of wanting to lower taxes, wanting to make it easier for Illinois businesses to do business in Illinois, we’ve really taken hold of that when we’ve expanded our operations,” Demirjian said.
Along with the possible primary challenge from Ives, Rauner faces opposition from whomever wins the primary on the Democrats' side. Democratic candidates include state Sen. Daniel Biss, Madison County regional schools Superintendent Bob Daiber, community organizer Tio Hardiman, suburban engineer Alexander Paterakis and businessmen Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker.