Rauner blames Democrats for property tax rates, slow economic growth

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Gov. Bruce Rauner met with business owners in Hegewisch on Tuesday. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

Speaking within walking distance of the state border with Indiana, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday bemoaned property tax rates in Illinois as a prime hindrance to economic growth in the state and accused Democratic leaders in the General Assembly of being “happy to hurt” who they need for political gain.

“We’re not competitive, and as a result, our tax base erodes and we don’t have enough in tax revenue to support a balanced budget and to fund our schools and human services,” Rauner said. “We’ve got to become competitive so we can afford to be compassionate.”

Rauner spoke to reporters after touring the Hegewisch business district and taking part in a closed-door roundtable discussion with local business owners about the economic challenges of the Far South Side neighborhood.

Rauner used Hegewisch as an example of a part of Illinois that has seen its job opportunities flee to neighboring states, comparing it to parts of Lake County, the Quad Cities and downstate East St. Louis.

Illinois has gone more than 700 days without a budget and has seen services cut and its credit rating fall as gridlock in Springfield persists.

Rauner said his chief of staff was meeting Tuesday with the chiefs of staff of Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to continue working toward a solution.

Still, the governor placed responsibility for the state’s fiscal woes at the feet of the Springfield establishment.

“We need a balanced budget today,” Rauner said. “We needed to two years ago. Frankly, we’ve needed it for the last 35 years.”

Rauner said he suspects — “but I don’t know for sure” — that Democrats in the General Assembly were, in effect, holding the state budget hostage in order to ensure Rauner was not re-elected in two years.

“They want chaos,” Rauner said. “They want mayhem. They’re happy to hurt whoever they need to hurt.”

About a dozen protesters chanting “Do your job!” awaited the governor outside Steve’s Lounge at 132nd and Baltimore.

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