BLOOMINGTON — Bruce Rauner, a Republican candidate for governor, said the General Assembly needs to address pension reform and other issues during the upcoming veto session, but he is not optimistic.
“I’m not sure anything will be accomplished,” he said Monday, during a swing through the home territory of two of his Republican opponents, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Pontiac and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. The other announced Republican candidate is state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
Rutherford also was in the area on Monday, introducing his running mate, Steve Kim, in Pontiac.
Rauner said “the economy, jobs and taxes” are what he hears about most while talking to the public.
A Chicago businessman, Rauner said resolving the government-employee pension issue is a key to many other problems in Illinois.
He favors capping pensions that have already been earned and moving government employees to a defined contribution, 401(k)-type of retirement plan.
“It’s what’s fair and affordable,” Rauner said. “Every dollar of excess pension … is a dollar that can’t go into other things.”
Making such a change would cut the state’s liability from $100 billion to $50 billion, according to Rauner.
He would start the change with lawmakers and judges. Other state pension plans cover state workers, teachers and university employees.
Rauner also is calling for a review and eventual overhaul of the state’s tax code, looking “strategically” not only at individual and corporate income taxes but also sales taxes, property taxes and various fees.
In addition to tax changes, Rauner said reform of the state’s worker’s compensation system — which he described as “a broken, corrupt mess” — is necessary to make Illinois more competitive with surrounding states, he said.
“If we don’t become pro-growth, nothing else matters because we’ll never dig ourselves out of this hole,” Rauner said.
Although lawmakers made changes in the worker’s compensation system several years ago, Rauner said, “they just nibbled around the edges” and didn’t address “the core issue, which is causation.”
Rauner said another way to attract business to Illinois and lower the unemployment rate is to permit “right-to-work zones” on a county-by-county or community-by-community basis. He said giving workers the flexibility not to join a union is a factor companies look for in choosing where to operate.
On education, Rauner favors providing parents with more school choices and prohibiting teacher strikes.