Gov. Bruce Rauner lamented Illinois' economic standing in comparison to Texas and said the state should at least try "to be average," during a town-hall meeting Monday with business and community leaders in Wheeling.
Rauner toured the facilities of the business IcarTeam before starting the town-hall session with guests including U.S. Rep. Bob Dold and Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti.
Rauner recently has started suggesting Illinois look to Texas as an example for how to improve the state's business climate.
"Texas is growing, Texas now pays their factory workers what they're supposed to be paid," Rauner said. "We're supposed to be the pro-employee and pro-union state. Texas is kicking our tail."
He suggested Illinois aim to be at least average when it comes to economic growth.
"If we just grew at the national average for a year, we wouldn't have unpaid bills today, we wouldn't have a deficit today and we wouldn't have (had) to do the tax hike in 2011," Rauner said.
Wheeling Director of Economic Development John Melaniphy said the village worked closely with the governor recently to attract Richelieu Foods Inc. to the village. The company, which makes pizzas, salad dressings and sauces, expects to open a 115,000-square-foot manufacturing plant at 120 W. Palatine Road later this year.
"This is the first time the village of Wheeling worked with the governor's office to recruit a business here," Melaniphy said.
Rauner reached out to Richelieu personally, Melaniphy said, something governors of other states trying to attract the business did not do.
A growing business climate would benefit the village, he added.
"We could grow our economy, enhance job-creation opportunities and lower taxes for businesses if we were growing at a rate that is average for states to be growing at, instead of losing jobs," Melaniphy said.
Faster economic growth and a more efficient government with less bureaucracy -- not higher taxes or fewer services -- will "free up the resources to balance the budget," Rauner said.
Sanguinetti opened Monday's event promoting efforts to consolidate local governments, something the governor advocated during his Friday visit to Naperville's municipal center.
"Illinois has more units of government than any other state, and that's a problem," Sanguinetti said.
In Naperville, Rauner endorsed four new bills that push consolidation, saying it would give Illinois residents more power to control the cost of local government.