Rauner anti-union? That's 'horse manure,' he says in Elgin
Those who object to his proposal to halve municipalities' share of state income taxes fail to understand his full plan, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday, when he also fired back at anti-union labels.
Joining a union should be a personal choice -- not a required one -- and voters should decide if they want to implement right-to-work laws in their municipalities and counties, Rauner said during a 15-minute speech at the Elgin Public House in downtown Elgin.
"I never advocated that the entire state of Illinois go to right-to-work, but we also have to compete," he said, pointing at Indiana and Michigan, which already have such laws, and Wisconsin, expected to follow suit next week.
"If you believe that unions are important, you should have them. You should be able to control what goes on in your economy."
The notion that he's anti-union is "horse manure," Rauner told the largely friendly crowd.
But Garrick Balk, a teacher for Elgin Area School District U-46, objected with loud heckling.
"The way he's talking, the unions are to blame for the financial disaster the state is in -- and that is just a blatant lie," Balk said.
Rauner's income state tax proposal was met with outcry by mayors across the suburbs, including Elgin, who said their cities unfairly stand to lose millions.
Any local loss of revenues would be offset by reforming prevailing wage laws, which can increase costs by 25 percent, as well as collective bargaining and pension payment requirements, Rauner told the media after his speech.
"(Local municipalities) will not be needing as much general government support from the state," he said.
Prevailing wage laws, which require nonunion employers to pay local union wages, cost Elgin an additional $1 million per year, Councilman Terry Gavin said. A 50 percent cut to the city's share of income tax would amount to about $5 million, officials said.
Rauner exhorted residents to make phone calls and write letters to special interest groups.
"We're going to transform our government and take away special interest groups that have a stranglehold on Illinois," he said.
About 50 or so protesters, mainly representatives of firefighter, teacher and labor unions, stood outside the restaurant chanting slogans like "Right to work has got to go."
"He's going after the unions' right to organize," said Ed Hansen, vice president of the Elgin Association of Firefighters Local 439.
Marty Dwyer, a member of Laborers' Local 582, said Rauner's plan points the blame at the wrong sector. "How come the working people are taking the brunt of all this?" he said.
Elgin native Jeff Jensen, now a Chicago resident, said he agrees with Rauner, whose speech he called "fantastic."
"It should be a reasonable expectation that belonging to a union should not be contingent on whether you have a job," he said.
The governor has the necessary vision, energy and enthusiasm to get the state in better fiscal shape, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said.