PEORIA — State Rep. Jeanne Ives called on local business owners to take action and have their voices heard more loudly in the political process.

The Wheaton Republican, who is challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary for governor, spoke to the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners on Wednesday night.

She challenged the crowd of about 40 to come down, walk the halls of the Capitol and speak to lawmakers "so they know you're watching them and they're accountable."

Despite a state full of "untapped potential," Ives said that's being squandered by lawmakers who "think they know your business better than you know your business."

And she told attendees at the Mount Hawley Country Club that they needed to contact her about instances of burdensome regulations so that she could file legislation to revoke them and free businesses up for the benefit of the state.

"You have got to revolt against the political ruling class that resides in Chicago and does all their dirty deeds in Springfield," she said.

To that end, Ives promised an agenda if elected as governor that would start with moving all new state hires to a 401(k)-style retirement plan rather than continuing to offer state pensions.

"We're No. 1 in taking care of our pensioners. We're 48th on taking care of our developmentally disabled. What kind of society are we?" Ives asked. She also said she would direct the state education board to develop a plan to require school consolidation — noting, for instance, that one-third of districts have fewer than 600 kids. She'd prefer unit districts rather than separate grade school and high school districts.

And Ives said she'd petition the federal government to accept a plan requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work, an issue that Rauner said in a Peoria visit he supports but would be unlikely to pursue ahead of other topics on his agenda.

On the issue of higher education, she said she wants the state's universities to remain strong but to live within their means.

"You can't have 26 percent increase in administrative cost at the same time you have 3 percent drop in enrollment," Ives said.

On each topic, recognizing that Democrats are likely to still have control of the Legislature, "we'll work with (House Speaker) Mike Madigan or we'll work around Michael Madigan," Ives said. "You have to build the coalitions and put the pressure where it needs to be, which is on the House members."

Chris Kaergard can be reached at or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.