Gov. Bruce Rauner toured the Destihl Brewery in Normal on Saturday before taking questions inside the seven-month-old facility.
Upon arrival, the governor greeted and took photos with patrons in the dining room. Surprised customers met Rauner with smiles and asked for selfies.
Rauner was accompanied during the visit by state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington; state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington; and Illinois Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.
Following the tour, Rauner held what was billed as a town hall among the brewery tanks and packaging machinery. Bill Brady referred to the governor as "Illinois' No. 1 sales person." Rauner said Destihl is a beautiful facility, and that businesses like it cannot be held back from business regulations in Illinois.
Destihl CEO Matt Potts started making beer as a homebrewer in the mid-1990s, later opening restaurants in Normal and Champaign. Now selling craft beer around the country, Destihl opened its $14 million, 47,000-square-foot brewery and beer hall in May 2017.
"What gave him (Potts) some ability to do this was to get government out of his way," Rauner said. "We had regulations, restrictions, caps, limitations, and we've eliminated most of them. If we let our entrepreneurs take risks, we'll create far more jobs."
Rauner said there's twice as many business regulations in Illinois compared to surrounding states, calling most of them unnecessary. He said this causes businesses to move elsewhere, like Indiana and Tennessee. Rauner created a Competitiveness Council his first year in office, to "free up the entrepreneurial spirit of the hard-working Illinoisians."
"There's only two reasons we're not booming economically: regulations, and taxes that are too high. We have every other reason to boom," Rauner said.
Rauner, who delivered his State of the State address earlier this week, said he will release a balanced budget in less than two weeks. Despite heaps of debt and no significant natural revenue growth, Rauner said the budget will live within the state's means. He also wants to reduce income taxes.
"What we need to do is bring that income tax increase down over time," said Rauner. He vetoed the increase last summer but the veto was overridden.
"I'd like to bring it back down to 3 percent every year for the next four years, where the income tax used to be years ago," he said.
Rauner said his opponents in the gubernatorial race have advocated to increase the income tax again in order to generate revenue. Rauner did not specify which ones.
Last week, Rauner debated his primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, at the Chicago Tribune. When asked if he would debate her again, Rauner dodged the question.
"My focus will be 100 percent where it always has been and always will be, and that's on defeating the corruption of Mike Madigan's machine and his cronies."
Ives faced criticism Saturday over a video targeting Rauner, using characters some are calling offensive and cartoonish. Many Republicans are calling on her to pull the ad.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.