Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner discussed several state issues at a news conference in Rockford Friday.
The event began as a private roundtable with small business owners at the Field Fastener company. They aired various grievances regarding state policy and how it affects their companies. Field Fastener President Jim Derry said many of his current customers are outside the area or the state, compared with when he began the business 27 years ago, and said reforms are needed.
"Things like workman’s comp and taxes are really things that we think need to be addressed to make the state of Illinois more competitive for manufacturing.," he said.
Patti Thayer, who runs a Rockford-based lighting company, also chimed in. She says the chief complaint from among fellow business owners was nearly unanimous.
“The resounding cry was, 'taxes, taxes, taxes.'”
There was particular concern about the recently passed federal tax plan, which doesn’t allow Illinoisans to deduct their state and local taxes after $10,000. Gov. Rauner said this is particularly painful to business owners and is a reason to implement his proposed reforms.
“(A) property tax freeze, with an ability to lower our property taxes through a simple voter referendum, and a rollback of the income tax hike that the General Assembly passed over my veto last June," he said. "We need to roll that back and bring our income tax down so we can keep the cost for doing business reasonable.”
He also said Rockford serves a powerful barometer of the economy.
"The success of Illinois really you can measure by the success of Rockford," he said. "If Rockford has grown strong, Illinois has grown strong, and we’ll judge ourselves based on how these business owners are doing."
After discussing the business roundtable, Gov. Rauner took questions on other topics, such as his weeklong stay at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy where outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease claimed 13 lives.
Rauner said preliminary work already has been done to reduce the risk of infection. To bring that risk closer to zero, Rauner proposes changing water treatment procedures, finding a water source other than the Mississippi River, and replacing outdated plumbing. However, he said these projects would be costly.
“The initial cost will be hundreds of thousands of dollars and a couple million and over time it will be many millions. We’re getting the specific timeframe and specific numbers estimated right now. We’ll be coming back and reporting back on that in the future.”
Finally, when asked about President Trump's recent vulgur remarks on immigration, Rauner had a single response.
“That language has no place in our political conversation."
This comes after condemnatory remarks from Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
"I cannot imagine that in the history of that room, that hallowed room, where the President of the United States goes to work every day – there has ever been a conversation quite like that. It was vile, it was hateful, [and] it was racist.”
Durbin held another business roundtable in Peoria later that day.