Illinois debt manager Jessica Akey is leaving state government at the end of the month to join Standard & Poor’s, multiple public finance sources said.

CHICAGO - Illinois debt manager Jessica Akey is leaving state government at the end of the month to join Standard & Poor's, multiple public finance sources said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration said Akey has told them she will leave for another position at the end of the month but officials did not disclose where she was headed.

Sources say she is joining Standard & Poor's Chicago office early next month as an associate in the local government group. She will not work on state credit analysis.

"We thank Jessica for her service to the people of Illinois," said Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly.

Akey was elevated to debt manager this spring.

She had served as deputy to previous capital markets director John Sinsheimer, who resigned in February after Rauner took office.

The new administration had asked Sinsheimer to stay on in the role but asked him to relocate to Springfield from the Chicago area and he decided instead to pursue other opportunities, sources said.

Rauner's administration initially named Office of Management and Budget general counsel Kim Fowler to temporarily replace Sinsheimer and then later elevated Akey to the post.

Fowler, who had worked on state debt management under prior Republican administrations, will again step into the role of debt manager "until we find a suitable replacement," Kelly said.

Akey could not immediately be reached to comment but sources said the rating agency position offered her a chance to advance her public finance career. In the state position, Akey helped manage more than $35 billion of outstanding state debt in various borrowing programs and she participated in the sale of more than $10 billion of general obligation and revenue bonds.

The national Women in Public Finance honored Akey earlier this year with its founders' rising star award that recognizes a woman with less than a decade in the public finance field whose work demonstrates skill and intelligence that is likely to have a long-term impact.

"Jessica's achievements are best reflected in her rapid promotion from bond analyst to deputy director," read a nominating submission from Sinsheimer. "Jessica has continued to develop a deep understanding of public finance" working on the structuring, marketing, pricing, and closing of state bond issues, he wrote.

The next capital markets director will take over management of a battered credit that has seen ratings plummet over the state's $111 billion of unfunded pension obligations and structural budget imbalance underscored by a backlog of bills of about $5 billion.

The state is the lowest rated among its counterparts at the A-minus level with further deterioration possible if state leaders continue to be unable to structurally balance state spending. Standard & Poor's in May put the rating on credit watch with negative implications.

State borrowing has dramatically fallen off as the $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now infrastructure program winds down. The state issued $3.4 billion of debt last year but has not sold any this year.

While lawmakers and Rauner have voiced support for a new capital program it's taken a backseat to the operating budget as Rauner and the General Assembly's Democratic majority are locked in a stalemate.

The state entered the fiscal year July 1 without a budget and the gridlock shows no signs of easing.

Rauner's fiscal 2016 capital budget proposed $3.3 billion in new appropriations that would be funded with just $250 million in borrowing.



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