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CASEY — Speaking to a standing room-only crowd that frequently interrupted his speech with applause, Gov-elect Bruce Rauner on Friday promised "a big transformation" in Illinois government, including everything from ethics reforms, overhauling the state tax code, increasing investment in education and vocational training and using a remodeled governor's mansion to recruit new businesses.

Still, his speech to about 250 people at Richard's Farm Restaurant in Casey was short on details.

"I don't want to jump the gun too much on that," Rauner said, three days before his scheduled inauguration Monday as Illinois' 42nd governor.

At times Rauner's address, delivered from the center of a large room in a folksy style, evoked the campaign speeches he gave last summer and fall.

"I'm going to work for you. I'm not going to take a salary or a pension. And when my opponent, uh, ... former Governor Quinn, tried to kick the stuffing out of me for working hard and trying to be successful, I said you know what, I ain't ever apologizing for working hard and being successful," Rauner said. "That's what America is all about."

Rauner mentioned ethics reforms several times, echoing a theme in a report issued Friday by his transition team.

"We're going to get rid of conflicts of interest in government," he said. "I'm going to issue a bunch of executive orders around that ethical issue and conflicts of interest in the first couple of days and we're going to go hard at it."

The Winnetka Republican also indicated he would fight the public employee unions that had supported Gov. Pat Quinn in last year's gubernatorial election, and are among the biggest spenders in state election campaigns.

"When a government union boss can take taxpayer-funded union dues and go fund the election of a politician with all of that money and all of those workers and then say, 'Hey let's go negotiate my pension or my health care,' that's a conflict of interest and the taxpayers are on the outside of that deal," Rauner said. "That's a broken, corrupt system and we're going to change it."

On other issues, he said:

— There would be an overhaul of the state tax code but said it's still being developed. "Evelyn (Sanguinetti, the new lieutenant governor) and I have a vision. We're going to sit with members of the General Assembly, the leaders initially, and talk about it. We need to look at every tax and compare ourselves to other states and make sure we're much more competitive than we are today. We're going to talk sales tax, every kind of tax."

— He had talked to about 140 of the 177 state legislators and found there's "more interest in making some big changes than you might think. But they want a governor who's going to stick his neck out and take the arrows. That's why I'm signing up. I love taking arrows. I've got alligator skin. I can break those arrows off. I'm going to battle. It's going to be a big transformation."

— He would reform state budgeting. "I knew it was bad. I knew it was really bad. Let me tell you something, it's worse. They're getting bills but they're not even putting bills into the system. They're just keeping them in drawers. They don't want to show us how bad it is. But we're going to clean it up. We're going to put together the most talented team that's ever turned around state government."

— He would use the Executive Mansion not only as a residence but as a place to do business. "We'll get it fixed up. We should treat it with respect and make it nice again. To live in the governor's residence is an honor. It's a privilege and I'm looking forward to living in Springfield. As a bird hunter and a Harley rider, it's way better in the center of the state than it is up north anyway.

"I'm going to use the governor's residence to do the government's business. I'm going to recruit companies to come here and I'm going to entertain them at the governor's residence. And I'm going to entertain the president of Poland or the president or Russia or China or Brazil to get them to invest and put companies and businesses into Illinois. I'm going to host them in the governor's residence and make it a nice place to do the people's business."

Columnist

Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).

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