Standing in front of a banner that called for empowering voters and more local control, Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke about his vision for the state, which includes a reasonable tax burden, great careers for people who want to work and quality schools.
“The only way we’re going to turn our state around is by getting the power away from the special interests groups in Springfield and give the power back to you,” he said. “Get you more control of your destiny, give you more control about your economy. Get you more control of your schools. Get you more control in your government and your tax burden”
Rauner brought his Turnaround Agenda message to a Greater Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce event at the Union United Methodist Church.
He touched upon reducing unfunded mandates, and the need to become pro-growth in the state while speaking to the crowd of about 100 people.
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“I want every community in Illinois thriving,” Rauner said.
The proposed reforms in Rauner’s Illinois Turnaround plan include a limit on prevailing-wage requirements, looking into unfunded mandates on local governments and empowering local voters to control collective bargaining issues in their own areas.
“I believe you should decide whether you want it that way or not, because the government belongs to you,” Rauner said. “It’s your government; it’s your schools. They don’t belong to any group. That will allow you to get a much better handle on your property tax burden, and the size and cost of your government and free up your good employees to work how they want to work rather than what the restrictions are.”
The Turnaround Agenda also calls for tort reform, pension reform, competitive bidding for projects, term limits, freezing property taxes for two years and prohibiting political contributions from organizations with a state collective bargaining unit.
Reforms Rauner has proposed are coupled with budget cuts proposed, including a 50 percent cut in state income tax transfers to municipalities, as well as reductions to mass transit funding, among other things, to close a $6 billion budget gap.
John Huelskamp, the executive director of Community Link, said social services organizations haven’t seen an increase in funding in eight years, and the cuts to social services that are proposed would be detrimental.
“There’s no meat on our bones,” Huelskamp said.
Rauner said in order to make sure social service agencies are paid on time, the state government bureaucracy needs to be reduced.
“We should help our developmentally disabled, we should help our veterans who are struggling to get established, but if money is being consumed in the bureaucracy, we don’t have the resources...to help the most vulnerable and grow our economy,” Rauner said.
Prior to the event, Rauner met with a handful of local government leaders, including Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern.
Among the items in Rauner’s Turnaround Packet is a sample resolution for city councils, village board and municipalities to adopt as a way to support the governor’s agenda. It has received support from the City of Rockford, Winnebago County, McHenry County and Charleston, among others.
Godfrey Mayor Michael McCormick said he would share the resolution with his council members and ask them to review it and see what items they can live with and what they would consider passing.
Eckert said he is studying the sample resolution that is part of Rauner’s agenda; there are some parts he agrees with, but there are parts the city needs to take a strong look at.
Eckert also said unfunded mandates need to stop coming down from Springfield and even backed a constitutional amendment banning them.
“They’re hurting cities and hurting residents big time,” he said. “There’s always a trickle down affect of costs to cities.”
Eckert reiterated during the discussion that cuts to municipality funding would be devastating.
“I think we’re unanimous that would be a devastating blow to all cities,” Eckert said. “We certainly need him (Rauner) to take a closer look and get a better understanding how much local governments have already had to sacrifice in the last five, six years. We understand action needs to be taken and our government in Springfield needs to make major changes.”
Rauner said Springfield needs to reduce the government bureaucracy to cut costs, and free up money for other needs around the state.
“I don’t want to have to cut the (Local Government Distributive Fund). We also need to live within our means and have a balanced budget,” Rauner said. “Cuts will have to happen, if we don’t get the rest of our reform agenda done. If we could get reforms to shrink the government bureaucracy and the wasteful spending, we’ll have the resources available, we won’t have to cut.”