By Chris Johnson
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner stopped at an Oregon factory Monday afternoon to talk about the importance of manufacturing in Illinois – and to roundly criticize his Democratic opponents for the lack of a balanced state budget.
The state has been without a budget since July 1, the longest lapse in Illinois history, and legislators ended their session June 3 without passing one.
“Go, Woods. Go, manufacturing,” Rauner said to Woods Equipment Co. workers. “America is a great nation because we make stuff. We are here to celebrate made in America.”
The Republican governor began his visit with a tour of the factory, where 300 workers make Batwing rotary cutters, dirt-moving and landscaping equipment, and, more recently, log splitters. It has been in Oregon more than 60 years.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers invited Rauner to tour Woods as part of the trade group’s I Make America campaign, a grassroots, bipartisan effort to create more manufacturing jobs nationwide.
Jerry Johnson is president of Woods parent company Blount International’s farm, ranch and ag division, and also is on the association’s board.
“Having the governor at Woods is exceptionally important,” said Johnson, who led the tour. “It means a lot to the company, but it means more to our team members. They get a chance to meet the governor.”
In fact, when forklift operator Rick VanDrew, Polo, pulled over to let the governor’s tour pass, Rauner walked over to shake his hand and thank him for working in manufacturing. He was one of several individual workers with whom the governor talked.
“Manufacturing is the key to our prosperity in Illinois,’” Rauner said after the tour. “We are going to take on the special interests in Springfield that keep driving taxes through the roof and push companies out of the state.
“We are keeping our great companies here in Illinois. When we take these rascals on, I will travel and work for you to bring more companies to Illinois to make things with you. That is what this is about.”
Illinois has a proud history that has gone the wrong way for decades, thanks to House Speaker Michael Madigan and other Democrats in Springfield, he said.
“Our jobs have been pushed out of the state. We’ve got to change it. We are fighting for you, to change the system,” Rauner said.
“We are going to change the political system. We are going to have term limits and we are going to have fair maps for the election. The property taxes are too darned high, we need to take them down.”
The state’s $7 billion deficit, and this past year without a budget, are “irresponsible,” Rauner said, asking Woods workers to contact Madigan’s office to demand a budget be approved.
“We can not be held hostage. Don’t hold up our schools, our budget, for Chicago,” Rauner said. “They should vote for their district, not for the Chicago machine and Speaker Madigan. That is what this is for.”
When the Legislature adjourned last Friday, members “left town without doing anything,” Rauner said. “They did pass Illinois State Healthy Puppy Day. That is nice. It is nice to have healthy puppies. They passed 400 bills but couldn’t pass a balanced budget. They are failing you.”
Without a budget, communities and schools will be the ones hurting the most, he said.
“Madigan has a supermajority, and they control the spending, They said they do not want your schools to open without a bailout for Chicago,” Rauner said. “Your tax dollars belong in your community, not Chicago.”
Rauner asked if any employees had any questions.
“If they are not doing their job in Springfield, why are we still paying their salary?” one asked.
“That is a great question,” Rauner said. “Speaker Madigan passed a law that without a budget, they would get continuous appropriations, so they get paid no matter what. That is wrong. They should not get paid.”
But Comptroller Leslie Munger decided to stop paying the legislators and put their paychecks with the rest of the unpaid bills, so “they are not getting any pay right now,” Rauner said.
State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) also was at Woods.
“It is great to see him here,” Demmer said. “We have good employees, and I am proud that the governor is connecting to the area.”
Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker, also a Republican, was happy to see Rauner addressing the needs of smaller communities.
“He is strongly working to bring manufacturing jobs to Illinois, and he is supporting the local manufacturers,” Gouker said. “It was great to see him here today.”
With Woods being located just south of the Oregon city limits, Mayor Ken Williams knows the impact the factory has on the local economy.
“Woods is a long time manufacturer in the community,” said Williams. “They play a role in the economic health of the city. It is gratifying to see the governor here today.”