BLOOMINGTON — A self-proclaimed fan of Beer Nuts, Gov. Bruce Rauner took a guided tour of the Bloomington plant on Tuesday, followed by a meeting with employees where he touted the state's economic potential.
“It’s great to be back in Bloomington-Normal,” Rauner said during a news conference after the tour and meeting. “Beer Nuts is one of the iconic companies anywhere in the country and it’s a great business for Illinois. Our number one priority is to help grow our economy. We need to grow our businesses and create more good-paying jobs.
"Through all of the challenges we have, whether it is funding pensions or education, every challenge requires economic growth. We can’t cut our way out of our problems because we are $185 billion in debt and we can’t tax our way out of this, either. The key is growth.”
The Beer Nuts meeting was the second of the day for Rauner. In the morning, he was at Illinois State University where he met with about 30 eighth-graders. He also met with The Pantagraph's editorial board.
"ISU is an awesome school and I was telling them how wonderful ISU is and I was encouraging them to think about where they would like to go to college and what they would like to be when they grow up,” he said. “The key is that they can be anything they want, but we want to make sure they do that in Illinois because we know there are a lot of great careers in Illinois.”
About 50 Beer Nut employees attended the town hall-style meeting with Rauner, who took questions, mostly about the state’s economy.
“We should be one of the fastest growing states in America,” he said. “We should be the place where businesses come to grow, but we really are not, and we haven’t been for a long time. It’s very sad and it’s very frustrating. We have the hardest-working people in America. You guys are part of the best work force in America. We have hard-working people. We have great location. We have great transportation and infrastructure.”
Rauner stated that Illinois hasn’t had a net gain in the labor force in 17 years and said during that time, government spending had increased 66 percent.
“The political system is broken and rigged and we have to fix it,” he said. “We have people in elected office who have been there 20 years, 30 years or 40 years. They are making a lot of money. They aren’t working for you, they are working for themselves. The political class is doing well. The middle class, not so much.”
Rauner said term limits will help with that, adding that eight or 10 years in one position should be enough. He also renewed his call for fair map legislation to eliminate the practice of gerrymandering districts, noting that two-thirds of the races in the General Assembly in the last general election had only one option to choose from.
“There was no opponent, and that is because nobody would run in that district because it was gerrymandered to keep an incumbent in,” he said. “These are the things we are trying to change as we move forward.”