DECATUR — State Rep. Jeanne Ives was welcomed in Decatur on Monday by a onetime supporter of Gov. Bruce Rauner as she focused squarely on the economic message she hopes will help her defeat the first-term governor in the March 20 Republican primary.
The Wheaton Republican told nearly 20 people who joined her stop at Stripmasters Services Inc. that she would lead a “revolt” against the state's political leadership and repeatedly criticized Rauner for not doing enough to stop the outflow of residents and jobs from Illinois. In December, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Illinois fell from the fifth most-populous state to sixth.
Ives' message rang true for Stripmasters owner Mark Scranton, a former Rauner supporter who gave Ives and about a dozen other people a tour of his facility, which offers industrial powder coating, painting, blasting and burn-off services on the city's northeast side.
“Right now, I don’t want another four years of what I’ve seen the past three years,” Scranton said. “Because I’ve seen zero improvement, and I’m really disappointed because the governor said he was going to go out on his own dime, fly everywhere in the country, in the world, and bring jobs to Illinois, to Decatur … and I haven’t seen any evidence of that."
Scranton noted that Rauner has made appearances at Stripmasters, as a candidate and as governor, in which he promised to “shake up Springfield” and reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses. But entering the final year of Rauner’s first term, Scranton said he has yet to see those promises fulfilled.
Ives' visit to Stripmasters was part of a daylong tour of Decatur, which included stops at the Downtown Cafe, Caterpillar Inc. and the Decatur Club. With just over a month before the primary, Ives repeatedly positioned herself as the Republican candidate able to work with lawmakers to pass legislation, but also willing to turn up the heat when necessary.
“We’re going to hold politicians accountable for their votes, relentlessly. If they want to work with us and bring back business, we’re happy to do that,” Ives said. “If they do not want to do that, we’ll go around them and go right to the people and inform them on policy.”
In addition to making changes to workers’ compensation to lower the cost for employers, Ives said lawmakers need to do more to reduce taxes on businesses and residents. Last summer, the state personal income tax was increased from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent as part of the state budget. For corporations, the income tax was raised from 5.25 percent to 7 percent.
Rauner has talked about rolling back the tax increase incrementally, but Ives said she takes a more “realistic” approach and first needs to prove the state can do without the new revenue, expected to be $4.3 billion annually.
“I’m going to need to prove it first that we can do without that money, so I plan to budget to the lower number,” she said.
Ives did not broach, nor was she asked about, a controversial ad her campaign launched earlier this month, which liberal groups called “racist” and “homophobic” and even some Republicans called an unnecessary distraction.
The ad featured actors portraying, among others, a transgender woman, an African-American Chicago Teachers Union member and a woman wearing a pink hat associated with women's marches. Each of them thanks Rauner for his policies.
The three-term lawmaker has previously said the "edgy" ad shows "what the policies look like on the ground."
For Scranton, though, the gubernatorial race comes down to who can help best drive Decatur's economy forward.
“We need job growth, and we need the state to do what they promised to do to help businesses with job growth,” Scranton said.