Rauner signs law on clear hiring

The governor challenged other statewide elected officials to observe the same reforms

 Gov. Rauner is challenging other statewide officials to observe the same hiring reforms he just signed into law for his office. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Rauner is challenging other statewide officials to observe the same hiring reforms he just signed into law for his office. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law this week ending the longtime practice of "offshoring" employee salaries by hiding them in the budgets for other departments.

But in signing the law applying to employees in the governor's office, he challenged the other statewide elected officers to observe the same reforms.

"Transparent governing has been a hallmark of this administration, and I support efforts to challenge status quo policies and practices, particularly those that are perceived to undermine the public’s confidence in their government," Rauner said upon signing House Bill 5121 into law on Tuesday, just before a deadline was to expire on the bill.

"Unlike previous administrations, we have been transparent in reporting head count and salaries of all governor’s office employees,” Rauner said, “and our administration is spending less on total agency-wide payroll than the previous administration."

Yet Comptroller Susana Mendoza, one of the leading backers of what she called the "Truth in Hiring" Act, took issue with Rauner's insistence that his hands were clean on the matter.

"Offshoring is wrong," she said. "It was wrong when Gov. Quinn did it. It was wrong when Gov. Blagojevich did it. It was wrong when Gov. Ryan did it. And it was still wrong when Gov. Rauner did it. But all of that ends today."

According to a statement put out by Mendoza's office: "A recent payroll analysis shows only 47 of Gov. Rauner's 110 staffers are actually paid from the governor's budget. Most of his staff — 63 people — are hidden in other agency payrolls. If the governor were honestly reporting all the people working in his office, he would have to disclose his office budget is nearly $10 million, instead of the $4.6 million that is budgeted for the current fiscal year."

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"Offshoring is wrong. It was wrong when Gov. Quinn did it. It was wrong when Gov. Blagojevich did it. It was wrong when Gov. Ryan did it. And it was still wrong when Gov. Rauner did it."

Comptroller Susana Mendoza (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Rauner spokeswoman Elizabeth Tomev responded that, while the law takes effect immediately, it wouldn't be fully tested until the next budget is submitted. "That gives the legislature ample time to make the law applicable to all constitutional offices — ensuring transparency across the board," she added.

In his original statement on the signing, Rauner challenged Mendoza and other statewide elected officials to live up to the same standards he was imposing on his office.

"The same level of transparent accounting ought to apply to all state constitutional offices as a necessity for accomplishing their work for taxpayers,” Rauner said. He urged the General Assembly to extend the truth-in-budgeting principle to the offices of the lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, and treasurer.

"The taxpayers of Illinois need to know how their money is being spent," he added. "The state’s constitutional offices have an obligation to be accountable for their spending and this would be a major step toward achieving that goal."

Mendoza spokesman Abdon Pallasch insisted, "We don't have any offshore employees," adding that the governor was being disingenuous in even making the suggestion.

According to Pallasch, state agencies may have intergovernmental agreements allowing an employee of one agency to work for another, but these are all by mutual consent. Only the governor as chief executive can impose an employee on a state agency.

"It's only needed in the governor's office," he said. "It's not really needed anywhere else."

Mendoza cheered lead sponsors state Rep. Christian Mitchell, of Chicago, and state Sen. Andy Manar, of Bunker Hill. The bill passed unanimously in the House and by a 46-7 vote in the Senate, so it had widespread bipartisan support.

"Every time a governor shifts a new, unexpected six-figure salary onto a state agency’s plate, dollars that had been prioritized for important purposes — economic development, senior services, and child protection, to name a few — are being diverted to a paycheck instead,” Manar said. "Governors should understand the importance of being transparent about their expenses. Taxpayers who foot the bill for government, and frankly the lawmakers who determine the appropriations for state agencies, deserve that accountability."

Mitchell said offshoring "subverts the appropriations process" and "takes money away from state agencies that protect children, the environment, and public safety,” adding, “This governor, and any future governors, should present the true cost of their staff in their office’s budget and make the case for why they need that level of funding."

Ted Cox