Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has extended the contract of one if its top-paid consultants, Donna Arduin, but is cutting her $30,000-a-month fee in half, following increased scrutiny over a governor’s office practice of paying top dollar to appointees while threatening to slash state services.
The move comes after an Illinois House committee held a hearing last week reviewing why another top appointee, education secretary Beth Purvis, was drawing her $250,000 salary out of the Department of Human Services, rather than the governor’s office budget. That same committee has called on Purvis to appear for testimony on Tuesday, said state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago. Harris could not yet say whether she would attend.
Last week, the Rauner administration did not respond to repeated requests by the Chicago Sun-Times about whether the state would extend Arduin’s initial contract, which expired May 31. The office then made a blanket announcement late Friday.
Arduin, a budget consultant, is among the “superstar” recruits Rauner has brought in in an attempt to 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.
But Illinois’ May 31 budget deadline has come and gone, and the Democrat-controlled Legislature remains at a stalemate with Rauner over how to plug a gaping budget hole. Rauner has said he would not sign the Democrats’ budget, which remained more than $3 billion out of balance. Democrats say it’s up to Rauner to decide whether to raise revenue.
Rauner, whose office put forth a budget that was at least $2.2 billion out of balance, has said he would not raise taxes unless the Legislature enacts some of his reforms.
Like Purvis, Arduin is not drawing her salary from the governor’s office budget.
According to a copy of Arduin’s contract obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, the Department of Revenue was responsible for Arduin’s monthly fee.
Last week, an aide to the governor defended the practice of “off-shoring” as a method used by previous governors. Rauner criticized Gov. Pat Quinn for engaging in the same practice and during an intensely divisive campaign called it “ghost-payrolling.”
Another high-profile hire by Rauner — former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle — also has been paid as a consultant. Under Lingle’s contract, she is to be paid $60,000 from April 15 to June 15. She, too, is being paid out of another agency, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, state records show.
Lingle will then become a salaried employee. It is unclear what her salary would be after June 15.
Rauner has previously defended Arduin’s pay — already $120,000 this year — calling her “the smartest state government budget person in America.”
Arduin’s contract indicates that among her “milestones and deliverables” she must address the 2015 budget, prepare the 2016 budget and draft legislative initiatives and proposals for presentation to the General Assembly.
Among the top complaints from Democratic lawmakers about Rauner’s administration is that he failed to put his proposals in writing or legislative form. Rauner proposed a series of Turnaround bills just before the legislative session was to end. Another goal listed in Arduin’s contract is to “confer with and advise the state regarding Medicaid cost-savings proposals” as well as possible pension reform considerations.
“Her compensation has been reduced by half from her previous contract and will terminate when the final budget is signed or on August 28, whichever comes first,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, said it is disingenuous for Rauner to pay his top staffers out of other agency budgets, noting that the governor’s office has claimed it reduced personnel costs by $552,000 and that it had zero dollars in contractual services.
Purvis, Lingle and Arduin are on payrolls other than the governor’s.
“I would say that the governor’s budget doesn’t accurately reflect [the] reality of how he’s spending taxpayers’ money,” Kotowski said. “I think the general public took the governor at his word that he was going to change business as usual. That doesn’t reflect what he’s doing.”
Reducing Arduin’s pay moving forward is a sign “the governor recognizes that he has to do more with less in his budget, or take those dollars that he’s saving to invest in people, human services and education,” Kotowski said. “I think it’s important to lead by example.”
The contract extension is another sign that the impasse in Springfield is no closer to being resolved. State lawmakers return to the capital on Tuesday as part of Democrats’ decision to conduct a “continuous session” throughout the summer.