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Governor candidate Rauner talks jobs creation, pensions in Aurora

Bruce Rauner when he was head GTCR Golder Rauner one largest private equity firms country.File Pho (KEITH HALE/Sun-Times)

Bruce Rauner, when he was head of GTCR Golder Rauner, one of the largest private equity firms in the country.File Photo (KEITH HALE/Sun-Times)

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Updated: August 31, 2013 6:23AM



AURORA — In a town hall-style meeting Monday, Bruce Rauner, Republican candidate for governor, talked jobs, pensions and what it will take to see a GOP-backed candidate in the governor’s mansion at Aurora-based Richards-Wilcox, an office storage manufacturer.

A lifelong resident of the state, Rauner said that he decided to run for Illinois governor because the state is headed “down the drain.”

“It’s the worst run state in America,” Rauner said. Despite the state’s assets — a great workforce, strong infrastructure and location — businesses are fleeing because of the taxes, workman’s comp claims and burdensome regulation.

“The red tape, you name the issue and we’re bad,” Rauner said. “It’s a broken system and we’ve got to fix it.”

Rauner said if he’s elected governor, he’d clean up corruption and run the state more like a business, and would recruit Illinois’ best leaders to run the state. He’d aim to accomplish four things in Illinois: more jobs, lower taxes, better schools and term limits for politicians.

“I’m not a politician, I’ve never run for office,” he said. “I didn’t even run for student council in high school.”

Pensions

If the people of Illinois want to get serious about fixing the pension crisis, decreasing state spending and deregulation, politicians must take on the unions, Rauner said.

The state is now being run for the benefit of government employees, not for the benefit of the people of Illinois, Rauner said, and he would take on government unions in a way that politicians haven’t.

“Today, the politicians won’t take them on because they depend on these government union bosses for their political donations and their political foot soldiers in the campaigns,” he said. “I will never take it.”

Crowded field

As 56-year-old Rauner seeks the top-state spot, the run for public office will be his first. The businessman is current chairman of R8 Capital Partners, and former chairman of Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR.

More than a year away from the November 2014 election, the race for governor is already a crowded one. Rauner will face off against three others in the GOP primary: State Sen. Bill Brady, a 2006 GOP candidate and 2010 nominee for the governor’s post; State Sen. Kirk Dillard, a 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate; and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Current Gov. Pat Quinn will seek re-election, but is being opposed by Bill Daley, the Chicago-bred former White House Chief of Staff and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Ray Koch, president of Richards-Willcox, asked how Rauner expects to take on the state’s “Democratic machine.”

“It’s going to be hard, I’ve got to admit, but I’m not doing this for fun,” Rauner said. He’ll rely on his immense power as governor, executive orders and line item-vetoes, to get things accomplished, he said.

Tom Tracy, a design engineer at Richards-Willcox, asked if Rauner believed it was feasible to get state spending under control.

Rauner said he’s spent time with governors and former governors Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels and Scott Walker listening and learning. Rauner is now working with a GOP staff who has led government turnarounds in nine states, he said.

“They say, ‘Bruce, we have never seen a level of waste, inefficiency, abuse and fraud in other government (like) we’ve seen in Springfield.’ They say, ‘we could probably save $2 billion a year without doing any major program cuts,” Rauner said.



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