Gov. Bruce Rauner made a campaign stop Wednesday at a restaurant in Batavia, taking questions from the Kane County Chronicle before chatting with families out to lunch and posing with kitchen staff.
Rauner, in the midst of a heated, expensive gubernatorial race against fellow billionaire J.B. Pritzker, stopped at the Portillo’s at 531 N. Randall Road.
Earlier in the day, Rauner had been in Joliet for a dedication of the new Gateway Center train station.
During Wednesday afternoon’s interview, Rauner addressed the recently-signed state budget, medical marijuana, the opioid crisis and paying for the state's $11 billion infrastructure plan.
Rauner said the budget “had a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, to be very candid about it.”
“The good thing is, it can be balanced with some management by my administration; we’ll do that, we’ll make it balanced,” he said.
Rauner claimed that if the General Assembly had passed his version of the budget in February, the state would be "running a $1.5 billion surplus."
"We could use that to pay down bills, and improve our credit rating significantly," he said. "We could be using it to invest in infrastructure, and we could do a tax cut every year."
Rauner said he is working with federal officials to get more federal dollars for Illinois infrastructure projects.
“Our administration is very focused on creative financing for infrastructure improvements, and we’ve been working very closely with Congress and the Trump Administration trying to get more federal resources,” he said.
Rauner said he would be meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in Washington on Friday, adding that they were “friends from business school days.”
Rauner announced a $11.05 billion infrastructure plan on May 29. Asked if he would favor an increase in state gasoline taxes or vehicle registration fees to pay for the plan as part of the “creative financing” needed, Rauner said he was open to “every option,” including private investors.
“I think every option to pay for transportation should be on the table,” he said. “The good news is, there are so many good investment structures that we can pursue. There are many private investors that would like to invest in infrastructure.”
Rauner declined to say whether he would sign the Alternatives to Opioids Act of 2018, approved by the General Assembly at the end of the spring session. The law allows patients who are prescribed opioids to instead obtain a prescription for medical marijuana.
“I have my medical experts looking at that right now,” he said. “I think that’s something that I definitely want to sort out. I personally in our administration am very focused on providing solutions to this opioid epidemic. It’s devastating for so many families in Illinois and frankly across America – this is not an Illinois problem. And coming up with other ways to treat different issues, whether it’s pain management, whether it’s other ailments, with different medications other than opioids, we should explore doing that. Frankly, opioids are devastatingly addictive, they are kind of in a category of their own in terms of their addiction level.”
He added, “So we are going to be reviewing that bill and will be making a decision in the not too distant future.”
Asked about the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program to include more debilitating conditions, Rauner said his administration has “selectively expanded the medical use of cannabis since I became governor.”
“I think we need to be cautious,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t over-prescribe it or have it become too rampant. It was actually passed into law before I became governor, but we’ve implemented it and I think we’ve done a decent job. And I’m supportive of selectively looking at other treatments where (marijuana) can be truly medically effective.”