CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has imported three outsiders with government experience to lead a "turnaround team" that includes the new position of chief financial officer, to be filled by consultant Donna Arduin.
Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle will serve as a senior advisor to Rauner, who took office Jan. 12, and Trey Childress, a former chief operating officer for two Georgia governors, will be deputy governor.
Rauner initially hired Arduin, of Arduin Laffer & Moore Econometrics, to advise his transition team on budget issues. Arduin held top budget and finance positions for Republican state administrations in California, Florida, and New York.
The three were tapped for their experience in management, budgeting, and streamlining bureaucracies, a statement from Rauner said. "Our current trajectory is unsustainable as a state. I've long promised to bring superstars from both inside Illinois and out to help turn our state around and I know Donna, Trey and Linda are the perfect trio to do just that," Rauner said.
The administration did not respond to questions addressing the need for the new CFO position, whether the new position would be permanent, or its salary.
Prior to serving as Georgia COO, Childress led that state's Office of Management and Budget managing both the operating and capital spending plans. Lingle served two terms as governor of Hawaii from 2002 to 2010 where she oversaw a $10 billion annual budget. She previously served as mayor of Maui County for eight years.
Rauner previously announced that Tim Nuding will head up the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, a position that has long been considered the state's top fiscal post.
Rauner relied on Nuding for financial advice during the transition. He has worked for the Senate Republican caucus for 25 years as a fiscal advisor and chief of staff to the leadership. No announcement has been made on the state's debt management position. John Sinsheimer currently serves as the capital markets director at the pleasure of the governor.
Rauner said in a speech Thursday that recruiting talented professionals to help right the state's fiscal and economic course is his top priority. His second is continuing a deep look into state practices and policies with an eye on structural reform.
"Government is being run more for the benefit of the people in the government rather than the benefit of the service recipients and the taxpayers," he said.
In the presentation to business school students, Rauner was critical of state Medicaid spending and employee wages, signaling change could be in store on those fronts although unions could dig in on wages and benefits.
Rauner said tax increases alone won't solve the mess. Rauner did not offer any new details on specific changes he plans but said proposals aimed at improving the state's economic competitiveness would be announced in his State of the State address early next month. He will unveil a fiscal 2016 budget on Feb. 18.
The state faces a nearly $2 billion drop in revenue in fiscal 2016 beginning July 1 due to the partial expiration earlier this month of a 2011 income tax hike. The state Office of Management and Budget recently released a three-year forecast that projected the state would close out the current fiscal year with a $180 million general funds deficit that would grow to nearly $6 billion in future years. The state's bill backlog is expected to rise from an estimated $4.1 billion this year to more than $9.9 billion in fiscal 2016 and reach $21 billion in 2018.
The state also has more than $100 billion of unfunded pension liabilities; a challenge to a 2013 pension reform package designed to lower those liabilities is pending before the Illinois Supreme Court.