DIXON – Ask the average Illinoisan what the lieutenant governor does, and you’re likely to get a blank stare.
Last April, the Illinois House approved a bill sponsored by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to eliminate the office of lieutenant governor. Current Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon let Gov. Pat Quinn know she would not be interested in serving a second term, saying she wanted to seek an office where she could have a “greater impact.” Simon went on to announce her candidacy for state comptroller.
But Sen. Kirk Dillard, one of four candidates for the Republican nomination for governor in next month’s primary election, has a very specific business role in mind for his running mate, state Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy.
Tracy is an attorney who worked in the attorney general’s office for 8 years. She also understands the challenges of running a family business. Husband Jim’s family started Dot Foods in 1960, in Mount Sterling, and have seen it grow from a station wagon and two rented trucks into the nation’s first and largest food redistributor.
Jil married into the Tracy family in 1980, and during difficult economic times helped grow Dot Foods, while still pursuing a legal career and eventually raising four children.
Tracy said her experiences in the business world are what motivated her to get involved in politics.
“I recognized that Illinois was losing its economic edge and struggling to compete against other states,” Tracy said. “It’s unacceptable that our state has the fourth-highest unemployment rate.”
Dillard and Tracy were in Dixon on Feb. 7 for the Reagan Day Dinner. Dillard again talked about creating a “Destination Economy” and making job creation his top priority. His keys to making Illinois business friendly are overhauling the tax code and getting rid of regulations that choke job growth, he said.
“The state is overtaxed and overregulated,” Dillard said. “We rank 48th in job creation.”
As a businesswoman, Tracy says she experienced firsthand the red tape and inefficiencies that have been baked into state government.
“The paperwork to incorporate, tax ID numbers, permitting, licensing – all of these things have become cumbersome for Illinois businesses,” Tracy said. “We have to make sure businesses have the best tools available, and the hindrances are removed.”
If Dillard becomes governor, he says, he will use Tracy’s skill set as lawyer, legislator and businesswoman by making her what he calls “The Repealer.”
Dillard would establish an actual Office of the Repealer that would be modeled after former President Ronald Reagan’s Grace Commission, which tried to weed out waste and inefficiency in government.
“Jil would spend a great deal of time visiting businesses, farmers and families,” Dillard said. “She will ask them what superfluous and duplicative regulations make you want to move your business out of Illinois.”
Illinois must regain its competitive advantage and create jobs, the Hinsdale legislator said. He thinks Tracy understands how to do it.
“Jil Tracy knows what it’s like to compete with other states for business,” Dillard said. “Her family’s company employs 2,000 in Mount Sterling and 4,000 nationwide.”
Larger state issues such as workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance also are keys to business growth and retention, Tracy said.
“When businesses are thinking about coming to Illinois, these things all play a big part in their bottom line,” Tracy said.
Understaffing at many state agencies is slowing regulatory processes, Tracy said. Regularly, she hears from everyone from doctors to car dealers about how long things take to get done.
“I hear from hospitals and nurses all the time about how long licensing takes,” Tracy said. “We need better staffing at IDOT, IDNR and Professional Regulations. The Quinn and Blagojevich administrations added upper-management layers and cut too many front-line workers.”