- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The contract of a budget expert tapped by Gov. Bruce Rauner is set to expire without a state budget in place.

Donna Arduin will receive an estimated $165,000 for nearly eight months of work. But her contract expires Friday amid a deadlock over the state budget.

Despite the lack of a state spending plan since the new fiscal year began July 1, Rauner’s office is doling out praise for the contested adviser who works as GOP consultant-for-hire as her time in Illinois draws to a close.

“In a state with a horrific economic and fiscal record over the last dozen years, Donna Arduin is playing a major role in attempting to change the mindset in Illinois from one of ‘kicking the can down the road’ to solving the state’s economic and fiscal problems for the long term,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said.

Rauner has defended his decision to hire Arduin after Democrats argued that her initial contract of $30,000 per month highlights the governor’s practice of paying high salaries to his top aides. Her monthly salary ultimately was cut in half to $15,000 and was funded by the Illinois Department of Revenue, instead of the governor’s office budget, drawing further criticism from Democratic lawmakers who said Rauner was “off-shoring” his hires.

Rauner has said Arduin deserves the salary because she’s “the smartest state government budget person in America.” Arduin previously has helped GOP governors in New York, California, Florida and Michigan.

In Illinois, Arduin aided in crafting the governor’s budget proposal, which later was rejected by Democratic leaders, Kelly told The (Decatur) Herald & Review (http://bit.ly/1IkbBfO ).

Arduin also worked across the administration to help the state’s first Republican governor in 12 years get his staff on track, which included training budget office employees and draft budget reforms, Kelly said.

“In all, she has brought a lifetime of invaluable budgeting experience to Illinois to help grow the economy and make us the most competitive state in the country,” Kelly said.

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Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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