Rauner tackles full transition agenda
SPRINGFIELD -- From dealing with a rush of jobseekers to a leaky roof and hard feelings among opponents he now needs, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has been busily preparing to take over Illinois. His plans include staging a "big party" to celebrate "our great state" at his inauguration, even as he struggles to get a handle on the state's "horrible" budget situation.
The Winnetka Republican will replace Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Jan. 12, marking the first time the state has seen a transition from a governor of one party to another since 2003, when Democrat Rod Blagojevich took over for Republican George Ryan.
Speaking to reporters for the first time at the state Capitol last week, Rauner laid out a full agenda. Here's a closer look at the transition:
Rauner said his "No. 1 priority" is hiring the most talented team possible. Former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar, a key member of Rauner's transition team, told The Associated Press that selecting smart and experienced advisers is the "first and most important" task for any governor-elect.
"No governor, no matter how bright, can do it all," Edgar said.
Rauner chose some of his top campaign staffers to help lead his inner circle. They've also announced a website where people can submit resumes for other posts: www.makeillinoisgreat.com.
With hundreds of Quinn administration hires and appointees eventually departing, jockeying already has begun to fill coveted posts under the new governor. Rauner said he hasn't spoken with any GOP legislators about jobs in his administration, though that doesn't mean some lawmakers won't end up there.
Rauner's had to work hard to repair relationships after a bruising election in which he accused legislators of corruption and cronyism, and even sending Illinois into a "death spiral."
The venture capitalist said he's been trying to meet with or call every member of the General Assembly, where he'll need support from Democrats who control both chambers to accomplish anything.
Some legislators, particularly leaders such as House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, have had face-to-face meetings. Other lawmakers say they've received chipper voice mails from Rauner, in which he borderline gushed about working together to solve the state's problems.
"I want to get to know everybody in the General Assembly personally," Rauner told reporters.
The office of Auditor General William Holland is conducting "turnover" audits in the governor's office and, by state law, of the state treasurer's accounts.
Spokesman Jim Dahlquist said the office doesn't have estimated completion dates for either audit. But Rauner said they will be vital to understanding how bad the state's finances are. He indicated the problems are worse than he originally thought.
"It's horrible," he said.
He has yet to explain how he'll follow through on seemingly contradictory campaign promises to cut income taxes while also increasing funding for schools and social services.
Rauner and his wife, Diana, say they will follow through on a vow to live in the governor's mansion in downtown Springfield -- making them the first to do so since Edgar, who left office in 1999. But Rauner says there's work to be done on the structure -- the official residence of the Illinois governor since 1855.
This spring, the third floor of the mansion had to be closed because of a leaky roof. Ceilings and walls were damaged, and some furniture had to be moved to a storage facility.
Rauner said he and his wife planned to tour the building with mansion staff, where they would be "laying out a game plan to bring it up to the standards we should all expect."
Rauner said his plan would be to use private funds to pay for any repairs.
The governor-elect is forming a committee to plan inauguration festivities. Previous governors have typically scheduled an interfaith service and an open house or receiving line at the governor's mansion, in addition to the inaugural ceremony -- where the new governor gives his inaugural address -- and the evening inaugural ball.
Rauner said to expect "a big party" and "a celebration of our great state."
"Everyone from all over the state will be invited," Rauner said.
Spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the inaugural committee will raise private money to cover costs. It's imposing a contribution limit of $25,000, and people who are prohibited by state law from giving campaign contributions -- such as those who have contracts with the state -- also will be prohibited from donating to the committee.