Pat Quinn spent his final hours in the governor’s office pushing through a series of political “booby traps” for his successor, including signing an order requiring governors to release income tax details, naming more than 100 people to boards and commissions and lifting the minimum wage for state contract workers.
All the while, Quinn punted on the most significant matter before him – medical marijuana – infuriating members of his own party, patients awaiting the substance as well as business people.
“I think unfortunately, he has exhibited rank bitterness in his endeavors. I don’t think he’s left in a graceful and classy manner,” said state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove.
“There’s a bunch of booby traps he left behind, leading to one reasonable conclusion: he was trying to stick it to Rauner on the way out.”
Quinn’s actions since he lost the Nov. 4 election have grown increasingly controversial, threatening to cloud his legacy as a reformer.
On Monday, some actions appeared directly tied to a bitter loss to his political rival.
One of Quinn’s executive orders would force future governors to make public all tax information, including supporting documents and schedules. That was an issue in the campaign as Quinn attempted to portray Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist, as a bloodless multimillionaire who was hiding possible conflicts of interest. Rauner refused to release accompanying schedules showing details at how he paid his taxes.
As governor, Rauner would have the power to undo the order; however, it could bring political blowback and raise transparency questions.
Quinn also on Monday signed an order raising the minimum wage for people who do contract work with the state from $8.25 to $10 an hour. That act, too, was seen as Quinn thumbing his nose at the new governor.
The wage issue was a weak one for Rauner; however, the Republican had repeatedly said he didn’t want the wage raised without accompanying business reforms.
In December, Quinn was widely criticized for appointing his campaign manager, Lou Bertuca, to a $160,000-a-year job heading up the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.
Quinn was a no-show in Springfield on Monday for the swearing-in ceremony for both Rauner and other constitutional officers.
Last week, when asked if he would attend, Quinn told the Sun-Times it wasn’t a snub, it was just that he would be busy working right up until the last minute.
“What struck some people were the explanations he was giving — working until the last minute — when he ended up filing what many believed on their face were meaningless,” actions, said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman to Illinois Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.
Schuh said Rauner’s dictate that some agency spending would be frozen was a welcome one.
“For us, that is a demonstration of leadership, something that’s been sorely lacking in Illinois for some time,” she said. “We see an excitement not just from Republicans, but from Democrats as well that there’s going to be some leadership that’s willing to tackle these problems.”
Still, some fellow Democrats thanked Quinn for his tenure in public service and for the changes he enacted during his time as Illinois’ chief executive.
“Governor Pat Quinn dedicated nearly a decade to promoting equality for African-Americans, women and the LGBT communities,” said state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, in a statement.
“He has worked to improve the quality of life for struggling families and helped Illinois become as progressive as it is today. I will miss his contributions to our state.”