Governor Rauner ushers in optimism for change
A new sense of optimism radiated throughout the Prairie Capitol Convention Center on Jan. 12, when Governor Rauner became the first Republican governor in 12 years to be sworn into the state’s highest office.
After more than a decade of one-party-Democrat rule, Illinois may finally see bipartisanship restored in the legislative process with the gubernatorial changing of the guard. Governor Rauner has pledged his commitment to serving the people of Illinois by helping to reestablish a once-thriving economy.
In his Inaugural Address, Governor Rauner pointed out the journey to fiscal recovery will not be easy. With a record high state employee pension deficit and the lowest credit rating in the nation, Governor Rauner stressed that tough decisions will have to be made to correct the years of fiscal mismanagement and poor decision-making that landed Illinois in economic crisis.
Joining Governor Rauner in the inaugural festivities, Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti (R) also took the oath of office, along with Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D), Secretary of State Jesse White (D), Comptroller-Designee Leslie Munger (R) and Treasurer Mike Frerichs (D).
Rauner’s first actions target fiscal crisis, tighten ethical requirements, transparency
On Jan. 13, Governor Rauner sought to establish his administration’s commitment to ethical government, signing an Executive Order targeting what’s known as the “revolving door” between state employees and the lobbying industry.
The prohibition, which applies to the executive branch and state agency employees, stemmed from legislation advocated by State Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) who had introduced similar proposals in the past, which were stymied by Democrat leaders. The revolving door ban, which takes effect Feb. 15, states that employees within government agencies cannot negotiate positions or accept a position in a lobbying firm until one year after leaving their government position.
Executive Order 15-09 will also further restrict gifts to state employees; require all employment contracts to be reviewed and approved by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB); and require state workers to disclose on their statement of economic interests any non-governmental positions they hold. Workers must also divulge a personal interest of more than 5 percent in state property.
Additionally, state employees must disclose any ongoing litigation in which they are a named party with the State, and every agency and employee under the Governor is required to cooperate with the Special Master recently appointed by a federal court to oversee hiring at the Department of Transportation.
On Jan. 12, Governor Rauner kicked off his term in office by taking steps to combat Illinois’ financial crisis. Rauner signed Executive Order 15-08, which ordered a financial freeze on all state discretionary spending.
In addition to halting what he called “non-essential” state spending, the newly sworn-in governor also turned his attention to state-awarded contracts and grants. The order suspends agencies’ ability to award, enter, amend or renew any state contracts or grants not specifically required by law, with a few minor exceptions. The contract and grant suspension is issued until July 1, 2015.
Governor Rauner also called for a review of past state agency spending to identify what can be eliminated or modified to help eliminate the state’s current budget deficit. Agencies are required to review all contracts and hiring decisions since Nov. 1, 2014.
To further cut spending, Governor Rauner also called for Central Management Services (CMS) to take stock of the surplus property for auction, determine potential consolidation of state-owned or leased properties, and the Governor called for agencies to be conscious in their energy consumption as a way to conserve state resources.
Finally, Rauner signed an Executive Order requiring CMS to add Rutan-exempt hires under the Executive branch and state agencies as a separate list on the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal (ITAP) website. Rutan-exempt employees are those who can be hired based on subjective standards, which can include political affiliation (or not), and are often placed in high-level administrative and management positions.