Gov. Bruce Rauner hosted his second Facebook Live event Thursday, focusing on Illinois manufacturing and job creation.
Rauner, who called Illinois the “manufacturing heart of America for almost 200 years,” repeatedly stressed the need to cut regulations and tax burdens to encourage job growth and business relocation to the state.
“Growing our economy and bringing more jobs is a big partnership,” Rauner said Thursday. “It’s a big effort for state government, city governments, county governments, township govenments, and local economic development corporations.”
“We are trying as a state to bring all our efforts together as partners to leverage each other, help each other and get the biggest impact in every community to grow more jobs,” he added.
The governor was joined Thursday by the former Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce Jim Schultz, who now manages Intersect Illinois, a non-profit created by Rauner that's dedicated to recruiting companies to the state. Thursday's event was broadcast live from Downers Grove-based Flexco, a company that manufactures products in the fastening field.
In a development from Rauner’s first Facebook Live, the governor’s team pulled real time questions directly from the comments section for the governor to address. The event has been viewed over 5,000 times.
In response to a question about bringing manufacturing jobs to the state, Rauner said regulations and tax burdens were “punishing” companies who are now moving because they’re not growing in Illinois. The governor claimed that Illinois hasn’t added a single manufacturing job since the end of the most recent recession. Meanwhile, Indiana has added 84,000 manufacturing jobs and Wisconsin has added 44,000 in that same timeframe. He also stressed investments in education to create a trained, skilled Illinois workforce.
During the event, the governor championed workers compensation and tort reform and pushed to get a handle on the state’s property taxes, all of which are components of his Turnaround Agenda.
The Republican leader noted that Illinois’ workers compensation insurance costs are among the highest in the country, calling that the number one challenge for manufacturing firms. He said those costs need to be brought down using things like causation, which only gives workers health coverage for injuries that were sustained on the job.
“Injuries should be job related, not outside of that, in order for workers comp costs to be competitive,” Rauner said.
According to Rauner, business relocation firms don’t want to expand or relocate to Illinois because of the state’s regulatory burden. He said growing the state’s economy would expand the state’s tax base and create resources to address problems like unemployment, poverty, crime, school funding and unfunded pension liability.
“Today, Illinois is not competitive,” Rauner said. “Our regulations are some of the worst in America on businesses. Our property taxes are the highest in America. They’re pushing employers out or they’re inhibiting employers from growing and creating more jobs."
“We’ve got to change that,” he added.
The governor also stressed the need to reduce the number of state taxing districts. Illinois has more taxing districts than any other state. Rauner recommends consolidating those districts and letting local communities deal with the size and cost of government.
He also said the state needs to be more efficient in order to lower taxes. As examples of how that’s already happening, he pointed to the modernization of state information technology systems, as well as new compensation structures for state employees.
Additionally, he touched on his plan to help minority manufacturing in the state, noting that Illinois has the highest unemployment rate for African-Americans in the entire country. Rauner claimed minority-owned businesses need access to business networks that can provide capital and access to consultants and management.
The governor pointed to the state’s Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurs program, which was developed under Schultz. Rauner claimed the program is dedicated to creating those sorts of networks for minority business owners.
For his part, Schultz explained that Intersect Illinois is still growing. He said the non-profit has added seven people to its staff and hopes to increase that number to 25 by next year. Schultz explained that, although they are already doing some business development, there will be much more when the team is built out.
“We’re the concierge service to Illinois businesses and to the economic development local,” Schultz said. “So consider Intersect Illinois to be your one stop resource."
“We want to be your red carpet state and not be a red tape state,” he added.
During the event, Rauner also pointed to a new Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll that shows 80 percent of Illinoisans supporting term limits, something the governor has pushed for.
“The courts said it can’t be done through a voter referendum,” Rauner said. “Even though we collected 600,000 signatures, they said no, can’t go on the ballot, denied you a voice.”
However, he noted that the General Assembly can vote to put the initiative on a future ballot to be voted on by Illinoisans. Rauner, who is limiting himself to 8 years in office, thinks all state lawmakers should be held to a similar timeline.