SPRINGFIELD —Gov. Bruce Rauner officially took the reins of power on Monday, calling for sacrifices from all as he pledged to fix the state’s economy, provide better education for kids and instill ethics in government.
“I’m nobody that nobody sent,” the state’s new governor said shortly after taking the oath of office as Illinois’ 42nd governor.
“And I’ve come to work for you. I will send a clear signal to everyone in our state . . . that business as usual is over. It stops now.”
The state’s newly minted chief executive didn’t sugarcoat his message, beginning his inaugural address by painting a dismal picture of Illinois and calling on everyone to share in the sacrifice required to paint a new future for the state.
“We must accept the challenge and the sacrifice, knowing it will lead us to something greater,” he said.
Rauner said he is ordering state agencies to freeze nonessential spending, and he pledged to instill ethics in government by signing an executive order Tuesday that he said “will improve ethics and accountability in the executive branch of state government.”
He said the state suffered from a “moral crisis” and “ethical crisis” on top of its economic woes.
Rauner pledged “to fix years of busted budgets and broken government.”
“I’m ready to get to work for you,” he said. “I’m ready to fight for you.”
The Winnetka businessman said he would take his first official action as governor on Monday, by requiring all state agencies to “freeze nonessential spending” and to review and report on every contract signed since Nov. 1. He reiterated his campaign pledge to take only $1 in salary and forgo all employment benefits.
He also pledged to fix the state’s education system “from cradle to career.”
“A high quality education is essential,” he said. “It’s the key to bringing back the American Dream for every family in Illinois.”
The venture capitalist alienated unions during the GOP primary and has run afoul of teachers with his support for charter schools. But he offered kind words on Monday, saying next “to being a mother or a father, teaching is the most important job in the world.”
He pledged to invest in education by “putting more directly into the classrooms, reforming the education bureaucracy, rolling back costly mandates and giving more students access to great schools.”
The inaugural ceremony was held at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, the stage appearing very presidential, with white columns, a red curtain and stars lining the stage.
Rauner huddled with his family briefly before taking the microphone.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) spoke earlier, calling for a moment of silence to commemorate the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who he said taught lawmakers how to be selfless.
“It’s less about us and more about the people we represent,” Davis said.
In a lighter moment, Democratic Treasurer Mike Frerichs took the oath for his office with his 5-year-old daughter holding the Bible. The 6-foot-8 Frerichs towered over his daughter.
“You’re going to have to bend down,” state Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said to Frerichs. The youngster’s arms immediately swung up above her head as the crowd laughed.
Ella Frerichs holds the Bible as her father, Michael, is sworn in as Illinois state treasurer, Monday in Springfield Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Frerichs spoke of the tornado that ripped through his hometown of Gifford last year and the sense of community the disaster brought: “The lesson of Gifford is when people of Illinois face the greatest diversity is when they come together to accomplish their greatest achievements.”
Frerichs said he’s ready to join the people of Illinois in “rebuilding the American dream.”
Frerichs, Rauner, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and Leslie Geissler Munger — Rauner’s pick for comptroller — were the new faces taking office on Monday. Also sworn in were Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White — both Chicago Democrats.
Rauner is the first Republican governor in the executive mansion since George Ryan left in 2003. But while voters decided it was time to give the GOP a chance at the top, they did not do the same with the Legislature. Both chambers remain controlled by Democrats.
On Monday, Rauner put Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Mike Madigan near the top of the list of “distinguished guests” he named and thanked. He used the word “bipartisan” twice in his inaugural address — saying it described our problems and the path to solutions.
“I pledge to work on a bipartisan basis to drive results and get things done,” he said.
After the speech, Cullerton said he’s eager to work with the Republican, but suggested Rauner has a bit of a learning curve.
“We’re looking forward to working with him,” Cullerton said. “The election’s over, and so he’s going to have to learn about state government.”
”I think he’s a very bright guy, very sincere, very friendly, but we haven’t spoken about any specifics yet,” Cullerton said. “And even today, pretty general statements made, but I don’t think there are any specifics. So when we see the specifics we’re going to go on and work on passing the budget and working in a cooperative way.”
The North Side Democrat sounded a bit puzzled about the freeze on nonessential spending.
”I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if he does either, but it sounds great. . . . I’m open to hearing what he has to say about how he’s going to balance his budget.”