WATCH: Governor Rauner recounts his record on jobs, budget battles in first term

Capitol Connection

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Governor Bruce Rauner lashed out at his Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker during an exclusive Capitol Connection interview, targeting him for inheriting his wealth and questioning his qualifications as a job creator. 

“He’s had virtually no business success. Nothing other than what he’s inherited,” Governor Rauner says about his Democratic rival J.B. Pritzker. Both men have backgrounds in investing.

Rauner made his wealth in private equity, while Pritzker grew his as a venture capitalist. Forbes reports Pritzker’s wealth is $3.5 billion which makes him one of the richest people in the state. In a March exchange with WCIA, Pritzker’s campaign said the investments of his company The Pritzker Group created four thousand jobs and another seven thousand at 1871, a technology incubator. 

“Those jobs would not exist today without J.B. Pritzker’s vision and leadership,” 1871 CEO Howard Tullman said at the time. 

“He has no success in creating value,” Rauner said about Pritzker. “Everything I did through my hard work. Pritzker inherited billions of dollars. He hides it in the Bahamas so he doesn’t pay his income taxes, and he has cheated on his property taxes along with Mike Madigan. Very corrupt.”

In a statement, the Pritzker campaign repeated a favorite emerging theme of theirs — that Rauner’s vocal criticisms of longstanding Democratic policies are “badmouthing the state” which they argue is detrimental to the state’s economic reputation.

“Bruce Rauner is a failed governor whose strategy for bringing businesses to Illinois is to go abroad and badmouth this state,” spokeswoman Galia Slayen told WCIA. “This is a governor who damaged the Illinois economy, drove jobs and businesses out of the state, and undermined hardworking Illinoisans at every opportunity. Rauner’s record of failure is clear and Illinoisans are ready for a governor like J.B. with real plans to grow the economy and fight for working families.”

While the incumbent governor blames House Speaker Michael Madigan for the budget standoff, Rauner acknowledges the impasse may have hurt the job climate in Illinois.

“Job creators were studying that very closely,” Rauner said. “They were watching. The fact that the [Democratic] supermajority was fighting to have deficit spending and more tax hikes, that scares the business community. That scares job creators. They don’t want to get stuck with that tab. And they were very upset to see that I was beaten by Madigan and his supermajority on that. They were rooting for me and they were very disappointed that we lost.”

Just as the budget battle was coming to its closing weeks in the spring of 2017, Rauner began traveling abroad to recruit companies from other countries to build or expand in Illinois.

In April, upon his return from Poland and Germany, Governor Rauner predicted Illinois would see “many thousand, many thousands [of jobs]. Over time, will be tens of thousands.” He said those jobs would arrive “throughout the state. Different locations throughout the state of Illinois.” Rauner said those exciting announcements would “be coming over the next few weeks. We have several really exciting announcements, in fact pretty soon.”

Three weeks later, in mid-May, he appeared to push that exciting announcement farther off into the future, saying, “I believe we will be having some very good news announced in the not too distant future.”

In September of last year, he said the same thing after his trip to Asia, telling reporters, “We had an extremely successful trip, I’m very excited. Many new projects, many new initiatives will be underway in the coming weeks as a result of the trip.”

However, the administration has not yet been able to show any of the jobs that Rauner promised. 

“Tens of thousands of jobs have come from that,” Rauner insisted on Capitol Connection. “I was over in Japan encouraging them to invest more. Japan is growing their investment in this state. I was in Germany. Germany is growing their investment in this state. I was in China. China is growing their investment in this state. Israel is now formed a joint partnership with the U of I to invest here. We’ve got great success coming out of that.”

The Governor’s office has not yet responded to requests to outline precisely where those 20,000-plus jobs are in the state. In a similar email question last month, Rauner spokeswoman Beth Tomev told WCIA that the overseas missions were “expected to lead to significant foreign direct investment in Illinois.” Tomev also pointed to Rauner’s ​​​​​​ “official announcement” in April 2018 of an international trade show in Chicago’s McCormick Center. However, that news was already announced in September 2017.

“The administration has additional opportunities honed on the trips in the pipeline and will make announcements as soon as the details are finalized,” Tomev said. None of those announcements have been made yet.

In three-and-a-half years under Governor Rauner, federal figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the state grew just 208,000 jobs, which ranks near the bottom of job growth rates during a time when most of the country was gaining momentum after a post-recession recovery. 

During the same timeframe under Rauner’s predecessor, Democrat Pat Quinn, the state grew 238,000 jobs. By Rauner’s own definition, that rate of job growth is a disaster.

“So Quinn was a disaster for the state of Illinois,” Rauner said when asked how his job growth record compares to Quinn. “Pritzker will be even a bigger disaster. Regulations. Restrictions. Tax hikes. Disaster.”

Pressed further, Rauner again pointed fingers.

“We have had the headwinds of a tax hike from MIke Madigan and talk of further tax hikes,” the governor exclaimed.

The “headwinds” Rauner described didn’t arrive until after the halfway point in Rauner’s four-year term, and that tax rate was nearly identical to what it was in 2014 right before he took office. 

“And people see the deficit spending,” Rauner went on. “People see what Madigan’s control is doing to the state. It’s very difficult to persuade investors, very difficult to persuade job creators to come. We’ve worked hard. We’ve had some success, but we could be growing five times faster if we didn’t have Madigan’s absolute control.”

As a candidate, Rauner rails against deficit spending. As a governor without a budget, the state was spending billions of dollars more than it collected while a backlog of unpaid bills soared to record heights. Now, with a budget in place, the incumbent is framing the upcoming November election as a potential turning point in the future of job growth in Illinois.

“Pritzker’s comments about wanting to do a graduated income tax hike, crush the middle class, crush job creators, people hear that,” Rauner said. “They see it. For the last year, since Pritzker started talking about this, job creators have told me that I’m recruiting, ‘We’re going to wait and see. If Pritzker gets in, we’re not coming.’ And job creators who are here now have said if Pritzker gets in, we’re leaving.”

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