Bruce Rauner gets to show Illinois what he’s got starting Monday. He’s taking the oath of office as the state’s next governor with many big challenges facing Illinois. Here are some key questions and answers about what’s been going on in Illinois politics since November’s election.
What’s Rauner been up to since he won election?
One of the best ways to see what kind of governor Rauner will be is to see who he’s hiring. For instance, Rauner is appointing Leslie Munger to be the state’s comptroller, after the death of Judy Baar Topinka. Munger is a former executive at Unilever who ran a failed campaign for state representative last year. Rauner also hired the former attorney for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, someone whom Rauner says he intends to model as Illinois governor. During the campaign, Rauner, a Republican, frequently talked about having to be the state’s best recruiter for hiring people to manage state government.
What challenges will Rauner face from day one?
Right off the bat, Illinois has a budget hole. Rauner has said that hole was created by Democrats who have used accounting gimmicks. Despite the lack of resources, Rauner has insisted the state could get by with lower income taxes. Those tax rates dropped on Jan. 1, meaning cash is staying in workers’ paychecks - and not going toward the state budget.
Agencies that have been in the headlines recently that have an impact on child welfare or overcrowded prisons rely on that budget, and directors at those agencies have highlighted the cuts that would have to happen if the lower tax rate continues.
That’s all on top of an ongoing pension obligation debt that Gov. Pat Quinn’s office has estimated tops $100 billion. Labor unions filed a lawsuit over a measure that saves the state money, but reduces retirement benefits of state workers. That lawsuit is still pending before the state Supreme Court. The justices’ decision could have a major impact on state spending for the foreseeable future.
How will Rauner’s management style fit in with the political culture in Springfield?
Rauner’s tagline throughout his campaign was to “Shake up Springfield.” But it’s not yet clear how far he will take that phrase - or if he will recruit people with government experience in Springfield to be leaders in his administration. Republicans have taken a liking to Rauner since he’s brought the state party money, organization, messaging and now power.
Several Democratic lawmakers have said they’re still trying to get a grasp of what kind of governor Rauner is going to be, but seem open to working with him. If much legislation is to get passed, they’ll have to work with Rauner: Democrats have a supermajority in both the House and Senate, meaning they could override a potential veto on a bill.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.