By Hannah Meisel
* Remember the Mitsubishi plant in Bloomington that shut down in 2016, leaving 1,200 employees out of a job? Brief refresher on the timeline…
July 2015: Mitsubishi announced its intention to shutter the plant.
June 2016: Plant officially halts production.
* But Gov. Rauner seems to be a little behind on the space-time continuum when it comes to this issue, because he keeps publicly implying that the plant sits empty…
“We tried to get another car plant to come in, car manufacturer to take over the plant. No one would come in. No one would even take the plant if we gave it to them because our regulations are so hostile to business and our taxes are so high.”
(Rauner speaking to moderator Charles Thomas at the Kemp Forum in Chicago on Friday, May 11)
* But wait…has the Mitsubishi plant really been sitting empty for nearly two years? The way the governor tells it, no one would be faulted if they believed that to be the case…
November 2016: The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity cut a $49 million EDGE tax credit deal with Michigan-based car company Rivian Automotive.
January 2017: Rivian completes the purchase of the plant.
March 2017: Rauner literally visited the plant.
* So Bernie Schoenberg asked the governor yesterday why he repeatedly acts like the plant is closed and completely unproductive…
Bernie: Governor, why did you say last week at the Kemp Forum last week that the business climate is so bad that no one would buy that [Mitsubishi] plant and people are moving out of state from it, when you were there a year ago with Rivian Automotive CEO to open the new plant and the state is offering $49 million in incentives? You have repeatedly said in forums that no one will buy that plant — isn’t that a flat-out falsehood?
Rauner: Um, Rivian didn’t really buy it. They sort of were pretty much given the plant —
Bernie: You said nobody would even take it if we gave it to them. So that was also wrong. You said that last week in the Kemp Forum when you were trying to say how bad Illinois is. I’m wondering why you keep telling that falsehood?
Rauner: There’s nothing false about it, Bernie. We are not competitive on our regulations and our taxes. This is a huge problem. It’s the reason we have outmigration net from the state. And we’re not growing anywhere near as fast as we should. These facts are well-established. We’re working as hard as we can. We’ve added about 180,000 new jobs since I became governor, we’ve been working hard to do it. I’m proud of that. But you know what? We should be growing five times faster than that, and to do it, we need to get regulatory relief on our businesses, cut the red tape. We need to bring down our tax burden. Our taxes are already too high —
Bernie: They have 40 employees already. They have promised to have 500 within a few years or 1,000 to match — to get the state aid that you promised: the tax break. How can you keep saying, ‘Nobody will buy that plant, nobody will use that plant’ when you were there? They have 40 employees, your own Department of Commerce has a deal with them — it’s just a flat-out falsehood, is it not?
Rauner: [laughs] No, Bernie, it’s not at all. That plant should have well over 1,000 people today. And that plant should have brought hundreds of millions of dollars today. We had to basically cut a deal on the hope, on a gamble that it might work out. And it’s the best we could do and hopefully that will become successful someday. But that should be generating tax revenue already today and should be hugely successful over the last five years. Our regulations and our taxes have driven our employers out of the state. That’s a fact and we’ve got to change it. And raising our taxes will not solve our problem.
* This isn’t the first time Bernie has tried to pin down the governor on the story about the Mitsubishi plant: Read his December story here.