- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner spent his first full day in office Tuesday dealing with two agendas: his own, imposing tougher ethics rules, and a second involving the last-minute machinations of his vanquished predecessor, which posed out-of-the-gate political dilemmas for the newly minted chief executive.

The Republican put his pen to tighter rules on the “revolving door” through which lawmakers and policymakers pass directly into lobbying jobs, on public officials accepting gifts and on greater personal financial disclosure.

“Business as usual is over in Illinois,” Rauner said in taking the reins of a state that has seen two of its last three governors do long stretches in federal prison. “Today, we are showing the state of Illinois we have learned our lessons and are changing.”

Officials may no longer negotiate for a lobbying job while still in office and may not start work as a lobbyist before completing a yearlong “cooling off” period.

Gifts from “prohibited sources” such as those doing business with the state are banned not only to public officials but also spouses and immediate family members. Financial disclosures will include family members’ economic interests as well as the policymaker’s. Expanded disclosures include non-government positions, paid or not, and ongoing litigation.

But the workload for Rauner, who also signed an order Monday crimping non-essential state spending, was made heavier by the furious maneuvering of outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn. Among other actions, the Democrat gave parting board appointments to several ex-staff members. Rauner moved quickly on the appointments, withdrawing the names of 178 people Quinn tabbed for seats, some paid, on boards and commissions dating to October 2013.

And he planted some political land mines for Rauner to navigate in the form of executive orders. One requires state vendors to pay at least $10 an hour to their workers - the same bump in the $8.25 minimum wage Quinn unsuccessfully sought in the Legislature. Another requires governors to make public their income-tax returns by May 1 each year.

One governor’s executive order can be the next chief’s scrap paper. As for whether Rauner will rescind them, spokesman Lance Trover would only say, “Everything is under review,” including five others Quinn issued since the election.

Revocation could prove risky. Yanking the income-tax proclamation could bruise Rauner politically. Quinn hit Rauner hard during the fall campaign because the wealthy venture capitalist didn’t release his returns until weeks before Election Day.

“That was just a stick in the eye on the way out the door,” Chris Mooney, director of the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said of the Quinn directive. “If he (Rauner) would take that one and reverse it, it would say ‘There he is; it’s all about him.’”

The minimum wage decree is slightly less problematic. Rauner stumbled badly on the issue of the minimum wage in his campaign, going from initially advocating erasing it to supporting an increase along with pro-business reforms. He could maneuver around it by pointing to his own spending-reduction dictum.

State agencies that handle the lion’s share of state contracting did not respond with information about the potential impact.

On public works projects, laborers, workers and mechanics are required to receive the prevailing wage - salary and benefits for a job of similar nature - in the region where the work is being done, Labor Department spokeswoman Anjali Julka said. A highway laborer in Sangamon County currently must get at least $28.47 per hour, state records show.

And many tradespeople can collectively bargain, benefiting from higher wages built into contracts. Such is the case with James McHugh Construction Co. in Chicago, which has a $107 million contract with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Marketing director Sharon Dunlop said McHugh pays union wages that are “considerably higher than $10 per hour.”


Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.


Contact John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor and Sara Burnett at https://twitter.com/sara_burnett .

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