Rauner touches a nerve with message about taxes, jobs
In his State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner called for lower property taxes, job creation and an end to the state’s 7-month-old budget stalemate.
In Senate District 23, Republican candidate Seth Lewis said reining in property taxes and fixing the unemployment rate are top of mind.
“Very important in my area is the skyrocketing property taxes and wanting to put an end to that,” Lewis told the DuPage Policy Journal. “And bringing good jobs back to Illinois and DuPage County - those are the things I’m very excited about.”
Illinois must work harder to compete with other states for jobs, Rauner said in his speech. In order to do that, Rauner said lawmakers must enact workers’ compensation reform.
“The cost of workers’ comp is the biggest factor driving our job losses,” Rauner said.
Lewis said he agrees that reform has to happen in order to change Illinois unemployment rate. Currently, the state’s unemployment rate sits at 6 percent; nationwide, that rate is 5.5 percent.
“Being a businessman myself, I believe the governor’s turnaround agenda, in focusing on workers’ compensation reform, a competitive taxation structure (and) a competitive work environment in Illinois, coupled with reducing the tax burden, will allow us to compete on a national level,” Lewis said.
Lewis said fixing the workers’ compensation problem in Illinois starts with causation.
“When other states are half of what Illinois workers’ compensation costs, and businesses are fleeing our state due to worker’s compensation costs, that’s a problem," he said. "If we could rein in causation, that would be a good start.”
Rauner called compensation demands being made by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) “out-of-touch with reality,” stating that state employees in Illinois are paid almost 30 percent more than Illinois taxpayers are for the same work.
Paying employees based on merit is something Lewis says he would like to see the state do.
“I think compensating people on their abilities versus seniority and incentivizing people to work to the best of their abilities is always a good idea,” Lewis said.
In his address, Rauner asked for “mutual respect” from both sides of the aisle to pass the state’s gridlocked budget.
“If we work together, Illinois can be both compassionate and competitive,” Rauner said.
After hearing the State of the State address, Lewis said he has hope the budget will pass.
“I would hope so," Lewis told the DuPage Policy Journal. "I know our current senator (Tom Cullerton) who I am running against has had plenty of chances to step up and try and end the nonsense. But he’s currently accepted the status quo. I hope after today, he’s still not part of the problem, and becomes part of the solution.”
Rauner also pushed for term limits for elected officials and for redistricting reform. He also announced plans for sweeping changes in the public education system that he says would put more money into classrooms and hold schools accountable for their performance.
Democrat incumbent state Sen. Tom Cullerton did not respond to requests for comment on this story.