The street is clearing for battle between the businessman and now Governor-elect Bruce Rauner and the politician who controls almost all moves in Springfield, Speaker Michael Madigan. All are watching and speculating.
Some say that Governor Rauner and his team are in for a rude shock when he becomes Governor on January 12. The masking tape used to tape down carpets in the Thompson Center and the balcony labeled unsafe and off limits in the Governor's Mansion are the tip of the iceberg of the holes in Illinois State government operations. The new Governor may think it is due to poor management, as this week's Chicago Tribune expose of DCFS implies. But what if it is due to lack of resources? What if it reflects the General Assembly's political power and desire to protect their own interests?
The same people point out that the Governor-elect has ruled at the top of a hierarchy. Business leaders make decisions and expect them to be carried out. While business leaders are used to negotiating with other independent businesses, they always have the option of walking away from a deal.
Governor Rauner won't have the luxury of walking away when the discussions involve important items for the State like keeping government open. He'll have to negotiate with the master of political strategy. How will this all play out?
The first battle will start soon enough because, on January 13, Governor Rauner will be walking into a crisis.
Failure to extend the tax increase drives a $2 billion hole into the state budget for the current year. Directors of the Departments of Human Services and Corrections say they will run out of money in February. The Directors may be exaggerating but certainly there is a revenue/expenditure flow problem. For the Jewish Federation agencies, this means that state payments are delayed. CJE Senior Life, for example, is owed more than $800,000.
The word is that Speaker Madigan deliberately killed the bill to extend the current tax rate because he wants the new Governor to take the political heat for extending it.
Meanwhile, in this lull between the election and the inauguration, the Governor-elect and his transition staff are hard at work, figuring out how to put the State on the path to stability and glory.
One task is to hire Directors for the many Departments. In the past, these positions were used to reward big political supporters or to build political capital by hiring popular legislators who could handle the General Assembly. Almost always the Directors came from the State of Illinois and almost always they are of the same party as the Governor. "We don't want nobody nobody sent."
But the Governor-elect comes from the world of business, not government. Very few of his top advisors come from the Springfield milieu. They are reaching out to candidates from other states and even Democrats. Political pressure may circumvent the Governor-elect's instinct to recruit the most talented but perhaps not. Jewish Federation agencies have a long history of good working relationships with Directors and are hoping that the new Directors are open to innovative programs.
A second task is developing the FY 16 budget, to be released on the third Wednesday in February. For previous administrations, the Speaker pushed back the date to allow a new Governor time to draft a budget which ties appropriations and revenue decisions to new Administration goals. But he is not cutting this new Governor any slack.
The Governor-elect's budget team started their work in November. Unlike the other top advisors, they are Springfield insiders with deep experience in the state budget world. But the time is short; usually budget development begins in late summer. One challenge will be to link the new Administration's new goals with funding, when that plan for change has yet to be articulated.
Already Democratic state leaders are saying that Rauner's budget is dead on arrival. They will introduce their own budget.
A third task is to develop a "re-invent state government" plan (my words) which goes beyond bold and ambiguous promises made on the campaign trail.
During the 2002 power transition from Republican to Democrat, Blagojevich appointed transition committees to draft a plan and set goals. Rauner is doing the same.
What is different this time is that Rauner is also drawing upon consulting power. While consultants have always been advisors in Springfield on specific projects, the scope of this project- "re-inventing State government"- is much bigger. As a businessman, Rauner has most likely turned to consulting firms to identify promising trends and pitfalls, review statistics, define concepts, float ideas, and propose plans of actions. Presumably, consultants are clean of political loyalties. They are trained to reach out and listen critically to expert witnesses. They are free to speak the truth based on their own data based analysis. He trusts that approach.
On February 4, Governor Rauner will deliver his first State of the State address. On February 18, he will present his first Governor's Annual Budget. Both will say a lot about his priorities as Governor.
Equally importantly will be the following 3 1/2 months. How will Governor Rauner work with Speaker Madigan? Battles are inevitable but will the battles lead to mutual respect? If they can work together, will that result in Illinois moving towards fiscal stability with the promise of sufficient resources for the State to carry out its responsibilities or to something else? If they can't respect each other and can't work together, will there be a continuation of the pattern of constant collision between the Governor and the Speaker which has characterized the past 12 years?
One top Democrat legislator said to me the weekend after the election: "Spring session is not going to be boring."