DIXON – Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, a Republican who is considering a run for governor in 2014, promises to transform state government.
As it is, Rauner said, Gov. Pat Quinn and Democrats are trying to buy the next election by giving government employees more money, even though they already make more than their counterparts in surrounding states.
Plenty of Republicans have also “sold out” to government unions and other special interests who depend on government, Rauner said.
Rauner, 56, stopped in Dixon for a lunch reception as part of his statewide “listening tour.” He later met with Sauk Valley Media’s editorial board.
He said his top priority would be to improve the state’s climate for businesses.
“If we don’t have a better business climate in Illinois, nothing else matters,” he told the editorial board. “Taxpayers are not getting the best value for their tax dollars, not even remotely close.”
Rauner said he could bring about change even though Democrats have long dominated the General Assembly. The Illinois governor, he said, is among the most powerful in the country. He said he would have a “steel backbone” in negotiations with unions.
Rauner said former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who left office earlier this year after two terms, was the best governor in the United States. Rauner, as do other Republicans, credits Daniels for making Indiana government more efficient, cutting spending and balancing the budget.
Daniels, a Republican, declined to run for president in 2012.
“I begged him to run,” Rauner said.
As for the pension crisis, Rauner called the current benefit structure “unsustainably generous.” He said he would work to change that.
Rauner, a resident of the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, said he is a supporter of charter schools and school choice, noting that he and his wife were big funders of charter schools in Chicago’s Hispanic and black neighborhoods. He said he was a big fan of teachers, but not their unions.
In the interview with the editorial board, Rauner declined to say whether he would eliminate townships as part of his plan to reduce the size of government, although he said it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Daniels tried to do away with townships, but failed.
Rauner also wouldn’t state his position on whether Illinois should allow same-sex marriage.
“It should be up to the voters to decide,” he said.
While such issues matter, he said, they pale in comparison to the state’s unfunded liabilities, which are “damaging our children’s future.”
Last month, the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald reported that Rauner improperly claimed three homeowner property tax exemptions. Taxpayers can claim only one such home for tax purposes.
After the newspaper brought the issue to his attention, Rauner said, he paid Cook County the $1,616 to cover the extra tax savings he had gained. At the time, his spokesman explained to the suburban paper that it was an oversight that was quickly corrected.
When the editorial board asked Rauner about the issue, he called it an “embarrassing oversight by our attorney.”