MORRIS – “Anyone who has a suit coat and a tie on, you’re completely overdressed,” state Sen. Sue Rezin said to a roomful of Republican supporters Saturday at the Morris Country Club.
“Because the governor’s rolling in on his motorcycle, and he has jeans on and a leather vest,” she said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner arrived a short time later wearing exactly that, having just ridden alongside the Illinois Patriot Guard organization in Aurora to name a highway after a fallen soldier.
The first-term Republican governor was in Grundy County over the weekend to serve as keynote speaker for the county Republican Party Central Committee’s “Lincoln Day Luncheon.”
Rauner made time to talk about how critical it is for Republicans to win seats in the Illinois House and Senate in the upcoming election. But he also focused on the state’s budget battle, blaming longtime Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and a Democrat-controlled majority for the state’s failings.
Illinois is now 10 months into the current fiscal year and still is without a spending plan.
“What we really need in Illinois is major structural reforms for the long run,” Rauner said. “The [Illinois General Assembly] has a Democrat majority, so it’s hand-to-hand combat. But I will never give in.”
Rauner outlined some of the key reforms needed to turn the state around: term limits, local control for collective bargaining contracts, local government consolidation, workers’ compensation and tort reforms, and procurement reform.
He also accused Madigan and other Democrats of “causing a crisis” to push a tax hike, saying he will only support a “truly balanced budget” with increased revenue and even then will only do so when Democrats agree to business-friendly and pro-growth reforms.
Grundy County Board Chairman David Welter said he viewed Rauner’s speech as “positive, but a call for action” in reforming Illinois.
Welter, who also serves as vice chairman for the Grundy County Republican Party Central Committee, said he agrees with Rauner’s interest in giving governments local control over collective bargaining and consolidation.
“Not just the state dictating to the local governments, but allowing us to take a look at what makes sense, and giving us the tools we need,” Welter said.
‘So much is on the line’
Pointing out how critical it will be for Republicans to win seats in the upcoming election, Rauner referred to the contentious March primary race in which state Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, lost his seat.
He said Dunkin lost because he didn’t show up in Springfield for a potential veto override of a Madigan-backed bill designed to limit the governor’s control in negotiating with state employee unions.
“We were able to get one Democrat off of the override, so my veto stood,” Rauner said. “But the Democrat leadership got so cranky … they took him out of the primary. This is the Chicago machine power that we’re dealing with.”
Aren Hansen, who was recently named the host committee’s chairman, said Rauner’s speech was “right on the mark.”
“That Mike Madigan and the Democrats are driving Illinois into the ground,” he said.
Rezin, R-Morris, made mention of how she is in the midst of one of the few competitive Senate races this year. Rezin is up against a Democrat, Christine Benson, in the 38th Senate District.
State Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, also is in a targeted race. Anthony will face off against Martha Shugart for the 75th House District.
Rauner said gaining and retaining Republican seats in the November election is necessary “for the future of Illinois.”
“So much is on the line,” he said.