CHICAGO—Illinois gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner has a little more than five months left before he faces the voters, and this week he sought to explain his vision of reform to many in the real estate world. On Tuesday, the Republican candidate addressed a lunchtime gathering of approximately 300 members of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and the Association of Industrial Real Estate Brokers at the Rosewood Restaurant in suburban Rosemont.
“Real estate is one of the most important industries in the state,” Rauner said, but state government needs to provide a more productive platform for business.
In outlining his positions and overall philosophy, Rauner told the crowd he wants to bring his success in business to Springfield. Rauner is a co-founder and former chairman of GTCR, Inc., a private equity firm based in Chicago. He left that position in October 2012 and is the current chairman of the self-financed firm R8 Capital Partners.
Making Illinois competitive with neighboring states was a big theme of the afternoon. Rauner said that he admired the work of Midwest governors like former Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan. He recounted conversations where Daniels said Illinois’ hostility to business is not only hurting Illinois, but hurting the Midwest as well. Rauner suggested Illinois needed to look at its entire tax code and compare it to the surrounding states.
Under the leadership of Daniels and Snyder, Indiana and Michigan became the 23rd and 24th states in the US to pass right-to-work laws. However, Rauner added that he did not support a similar effort in Illinois. Instead, he believes right-to-work zones should allow local communities to make these decisions. Rauner would also consider using a superstar team of business leaders to chart a better course for the state.
He also noted that Illinois has one of the most protective pension systems in the country; only two other states have as much protection for pensions as Illinois does. Rauner does not have much faith in the reform schemes currently getting kicked around in Springfield, and believes they are likely to get tossed out by the courts.
“Cap the current system and move towards a defined contribution system,” he advised. This strategy will protect those who have already invested in the system but stop the bleeding. Furthermore, he wants to end the practice of allowing some state employees to get pay raises on the cusp of retirement, a practice that has helped balloon pension costs.
Rauner said he hoped that after his time in the governor’s mansion, Illinois will have the best schools and “the lowest unemployment in the country as opposed to the third highest.”