Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is considering a second contract extension of high-priced budget consultant Donna Arduin, even as the state is rounding out its second month of the fiscal year with no budget in place.
In addition, Illinois faces a possible contempt finding by a federal judge for failing to comply with a court order to fund services for the severely developmentally disabled.
Rauner initially raised eyebrows when he agreed to pay budget consultant Arduin $30,000-a-month at a time when the state is drowning in red ink. When Arduin’s contract was to expire at the end of May, the administration extended it to Friday. Facing criticism over the high salary, the office cut her salary to $15,000 a month.
After roughly eight months and about $165,000, Arduin’s contract may be extended again, according to the Rauner administration.
Arduin, a budget consultant, is among Rauner’s “superstar” recruits, who the governor said would right the state’s financial ship. Previously, she helped prepare budgets for Republican governors in New York, California, Florida and Michigan. That included working for former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
On Thursday, Rauner’s office defended Arduin’s work.
“In a state with a horrific economic and fiscal record over the last dozen years, Donna Arduin is playing a major role in attempting to change the mindset in Illinois from one of ‘kicking the can down the road’ to solving the state’s economic and fiscal problems for the long term. She has worked hand-in-hand with GOMB Director Tim Nuding on crafting the governor’s budget proposal,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly wrote in an email. “In addition, she has helped draft a series of budget reforms and explained why these reforms will have positive change on Illinois’ fiscal health with legislators.”
“Donna has worked to train new staff at GOMB so they understand the mindset of successful budget analysts, setting up Illinois for growth and fiscal stability. Given her background as an economist, she has also worked closely with the Department of Revenue and its economists on revenue policy and evaluating the state’s revenue performance. She has also worked with agencies to help them navigate the current budget impasse, and troubleshoot any concerns, so they can best serve the people of Illinois. In all, she has brought a lifetime of invaluable budgeting experience to Illinois to help grow the economy and make us the most competitive state in the country.”
But one arm of the Service Employees International Union had a different view of Rauner’s “superstar.”
“Donna Arduin was a Rauner-brand superstar, whose indifference to the suffering of the most vulnerable Illinoisans – all in the name of alarming Darwinian budget logic now being felt in every corner of the state – earned her a huge paycheck,” SEIU Healthcare said in a statement.