Quinn names his budget chief to fill out comptroller term
Outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn tapped a longtime member of his own inner circle Friday to temporarily replace the late Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, putting the statewide office in Democratic hands for a little more than three weeks until a new governor is seated.
In naming budget director Jerry Stermer to the post, Quinn chose not to heed the wishes of his Republican successor. Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner had called on Quinn repeatedly in recent weeks to name Topinka's longtime chief of staff, Nancy Kimme, as her short-term replacement.
Stermer, who was sworn in by Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans on Friday afternoon, will serve until Rauner takes office Jan. 12, Quinn said. Rauner will then have the authority to announce a full four-year replacement to serve the new term that Topinka won in November. She died last week after suffering a stroke.
Quinn said he had to "think about the issue very closely." He called Stermer, a former chief of staff whom he has known since the early 1970s, "a respected and experienced budget expert who will carry out the duties of comptroller with integrity and heart."
Kimme, also a member of Rauner's transition team, has agreed to continue as the comptroller's chief of staff, which Stermer said was important for "operational continuity." The office oversees the state's checkbook and manages its backlog of bills.
Despite wanting Kimme, Rauner said in a written statement that Quinn's naming of an interim officeholder "is an appropriate decision and will ensure continuity of services for the people of Illinois -- for that I thank the governor."
The outgoing and incoming governors continue to jockey over Topinka's replacement. Quinn has asked lawmakers to return to Springfield for a Jan. 8 special session to consider a 2016 special election for the comptroller's seat. Such an election would cut in half the four-year appointment Rauner aides say he intends to make after he's sworn in.
Republicans say Rauner's eventual appointee should serve out a full term and suspect partisan motives in Quinn's calling of the special session.
In the meantime, the comptroller's office has been able to "process checks uninterrupted" since Topinka's death, according to office spokesman Brad Hahn.
Stermer's salary could see a boost for his 24 days as comptroller, though it was unclear Friday whether he would be taking the higher pay rate that comes with the position. Stermer makes $125,004 a year as budget director, state records show, while Topinka made $135,669. Stermer has already requested to opt out of the pension system available to officeholders, State Employees Retirement Systems spokesman Tim Blair said.