Business leaders look forward to Rauner administration
Business leaders who backed Republican Bruce Rauner's campaign for governor not surprisingly were thrilled when the Winnetka businessman prevailed on Tuesday night.
There are plenty of policy changes they hope he makes, but that'll come later.
For now, though, some business leaders see Rauner as the symbol of potential change in Illinois' reputation.
"Bruce Rauner's election will solve 50 percent of our perception problem," Illinois Manufacturers Association President Greg Baise said. The group worked hard for Rauner's campaign.
"Maybe we won't be the butt of every joke," Baise said.
It could depend on who's telling it.
Politicians of different political persuasions will argue whether Illinois' government and taxes actually create a hostile climate for businesses. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn didn't lose by much, after all, when telling voters that the state's economy is improving. And the Illinois Retail Merchants Association endorsed neither candidate during the campaign, saying Rauner's tax plans weren't specific.
But many business leaders have high hopes for Rauner when it comes to taxes and a new administration they hope will make life easier for them.
Rauner is in the process of putting together a cabinet, and Illinois' National Federation of Independent Business Director Kim Maisch says who ends up in those roles is critical.
Having someone with a different attitude toward businesses leading the state Department of Labor, for example, could help small business owners swamped with paperwork, she said.
If businesses make an honest mistake, Maisch said, the state could be helpful by not immediately turning to fines and penalties. She said clear lawbreakers should be dealt with harshly, but a small business can take a big hit over a mistake if the state issues stiff penalties.
"We just want an agency that isn't going to constantly come down hard on those guys," Maisch said.
It's clear Rauner wants to focus on the economy in his first term, which starts in January.
In his first news conference with reporters after being elected, Rauner repeated the words "growth" and "competitiveness" over and over.
The governor-elect spent time in the suburbs during the campaign visiting businesses, like Crescent Cardboard in Wheeling and Acme Industries in Elk Grove Village, to try to highlight that point.
"We want to create jobs in every community throughout Illinois, and to do that we need to have companies like Acme growing," he said.
Business leaders will be watching the upcoming debates over taxes closely. Rauner has said he wants the state's individual income tax rate to drop from 5 percent to 3 percent over the next four years, but his plans in the short term remain to be seen.
He's also proposed adding to the workers' compensation reforms approved under Quinn. That issue tends to be at the top of the business wish list in Springfield every year.
Rauner also has proposed charging sales taxes on some services in Illinois, an idea that some business leaders criticize.
To get his agenda approved, he'll need to work with Democratic lawmakers who still have a tight grip on the Illinois Capitol, which is perhaps why he also repeated the word "bipartisan" at that first news conference.
It remains to be seen if having two different parties in power at the Capitol will create compromise or if dueling philosophies will create the kind of ongoing gridlock Congress has been criticized for.
"His biggest learning curve is going to be Springfield," Maisch said.