New Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner ordered all Illinois agencies Monday to turn off the lights and turn down the thermostats, and to freeze nonessential spending in his first effort to get the state’s finances under control.
Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state, and the worst-funded pension system, with an unfunded liability of $111 billion. Former Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office estimated the state’s debt will reach $9.8 billion in 2017, up from $4 billion this year, reports The Washington Post.
Rauner defeated Quinn in the 2014 election to become the first Republican governor in the state since 2003.
In addition to the spending freeze, Rauner ordered a review of all state contracts and a list of those that could be terminated, putting a hold on most new contracts and grants until July. He stopped planning on highway spending projects and said agencies should sell equipment they don’t need.
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“I will send a clear signal to everyone in our state, and to those watching from outside our borders, that business as usual is over,” Rauner said Monday in his inaugural address. “It stops now.”
Rauner campaigned as a reformer, and promised to lower taxes, reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, and increase state funding for education. He also promised to take on what he calls a moral and ethical crisis in the state, and to impose term limits on state legislators.
His job will be made more difficult by veto-proof Democrat majorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.
“Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice so that one day we can again share in Illinois’ prosperity,” he said Monday. “We all must shake up our old ways of thinking.”
State Democrats told the Daily Herald they’re not impressed by Rauner’s rhetoric, and the real test will come when he has to come up with a budget.
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