Gov. Bruce Rauner is some 4,600 miles from the state capital on a “jobs mission” to Germany and Poland, but in between meetings about economic growth and sips of Polish beer, the governor is keeping tabs on budget negotiations — and Democratic rival J.B. Pritzker.
Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times via telephone from Stein, Germany, on Tuesday, Rauner said his budget director Hans Zigmund is in discussion with appointed budgeteers while he’s away. And the Republican governor said he’s getting updates about budgetary issues.
“I’m keeping in close touch on all of that and our administration on issues that have come along,” Rauner said. “And I’m very pleased to see that the Senate Republicans took a strong stand against this concept of putting in a graduated income tax, a vote against that to express solidarity. A graduated income tax will be a job killer for Illinois and it will be devastating to the middle class. So I plan to see that there’s more resistance to that. I am strongly against that.”
Pritzker is floating the graduated income tax as a way to help finance education.
State Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, recently filed a Senate resolution opposing a constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax rate. And Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, stood alongside House Republicans in voicing his opposition to the tax rate last week.
Rauner left for his trip on Friday, April 13. He’ll also travel to Frankfurt, Essen and Hamburg. The governor’s office would not specify when he’ll be back.
Rauner is traveling with a delegation from Illinois business and community leaders, as well as economic and university development executives. On Monday, the governor met with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, while also celebrating the 25th anniversary of a partnership Poland has with the Illinois National Guard and Polish Armed Forces. In Poland, Rauner visited Warsaw and Krakow.
Rauner met with senior officials of Poland’s Ministry of Defense as well, and said there were no discussions about concerns over the Trump administration’s tariffs on aluminum and steel. He also said Polish officials discussed the strike against Syria, which is supported by the Polish Armed Forces.
“The minister of defense and Polish leaders are very in line with the United States policy on defense and dealing with terrorism and the fighting in the Middle East,” Rauner said.
The governor in September took an eight-day trip to Japan and China, again, in an effort to lure more countries to Illinois.
“The goal is to increase job growth and economic opportunities in Illinois. That’s the fundamental goal,” Rauner said of his visit to Poland, adding that he hoped to develop more educational opportunities between Poland and universities and colleges in Illinois.
“We met with several dozen business owners and business leaders in Poland,” Rauner said. “We met quite a few who are interested in expanding their business in American and we talked in length about the advantages to locate in Illinois as a central place with our strong, large Polish-American community, O’Hare Airport, our workforce, all the advantages. And we got a lot of enthusiasm. And we got commitments from many to come and visit to discuss exchanging opportunities.”
It was the governor’s first trip to Poland. His favorite drink there? Polish beer.
“I never had Polish beer before but it was outstanding,” Rauner said.