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Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner Says Illinois' Finances Are Even Worse Than He Thought

Illinois Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner shakes the hand of a diner at Red Apple Family Restaurant in Maryville, Ill. on January 10, 2015.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

With the countdown to inauguration day down to two, Illinois Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner stepped into Red Apple Family Restaurant in the Metro East Saturday with a Carhartt jacket on his back and a smile on his face.

The discerning eye could note a silver Illinois-shaped pin stuck to the lapel of the tan work coat.

The crowded red-roofed eatery in the village of Maryville was the Republican’s first stop Saturday—the second day of his pre-inauguration tour.

Accompanied by his wife, Diana Rauner, his lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, and his appointee for state comptroller, Leslie Munger, Rauner shook hands and greeted diners as he made his way to the main sitting area to speak to his supporters.

His talking points were familiar to anyone who has followed his campaign: full of promises to put end to insider deals, curb reckless spending, balance the budget and keep taxes as low as possible.

“We’re going to drive efficiency in government because we have a duty to have a booming economy and keep the taxpayers wallets with their own money as much as we can,” Rauner said. “But we also have a duty to provide the social services to our neediest citizens—our families, disabled, our veterans, our elderly living in poverty, our young kids living in poverty.”

Rauner said that he will take executive action against special interest groups immediately after taking office.

“We’re going to change by regulation, by what the governor does, what the lobbyists are doing and the insider deals,” Rauner said, adding that it will be challenging and that he is going to need help to pressure state legislators at key times to pass legislation.

“We want your voices heard,” he said. “And let me tell you, I come from a farming family. How many of you all are farmers? Let me tell you, politicians fear farmers.”

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Rauner said the state’s finances are even worse than he thought when he was campaigning.

“Boy it’s horrible. I knew it was bad when I started the campaign, but now that we’ve got inside and looked at the departments—they’re putting bills in drawers and they’re not paying. And spending is out of control,” he said, adding that state legislators are ignoring the constitution and passing budgets Illinois doesn’t have the money to pay for.

Saving Money By Merging State Offices?

When Rauner becomes governor of Illinois on Monday, his newly appointed comptroller, Leslie Munger, will take office too.

Leslie Munger will become Illinois' comptroller Monday when Bruce Rauner takes office as the state's first Republican governor since 2003.
Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
Leslie Munger will become Illinois' comptroller Monday when Bruce Rauner takes office as the state's first Republican governor since 2003.

Munger will be the state’s comptroller until 2016, when a special election will be held to choose Illinois’ chief financial officer. Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation Saturday that sets the stage for that special election. If Quinn hadn’t called a special legislative session in which the measure was passed, Munger would have served Judy BaarTopinka’s full four-year term.

But if Munger has her way, the comptroller’s office will be merged with the treasurer’s office by 2016 anyway. She told the crowd at Red Apple Restaurant Saturday that consolidating the two offices will be the first place she looks in her campaign to save the state money, and represents savings to the tune of $12 million.

“I’ve heard people say well that’s not a lot when we’re billions of dollars in debt. You know, $12 million is a lot of money. And if we can save millions of dollars in state agencies across the state, pretty soon we’ll have billions of dollars in savings and I’m going to be working hard to do that.”

Munger said that she will be looking at ways to be more efficient with the state’s money across the board so that Illinois can pay a backlog of bills without “cutting critical services.”

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.