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GOP's Rauner now turns to governing Illinois

SARA BURNETT, Associated Press
SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press
Posted on 11/6/2014, 11:26 AM

Governor-elect Bruce Rauner began appointing a team Wednesday to build his administration and pledged to make good on a promise to turn Springfield on its head, even though Democrats appeared to keep their solid hold on the Legislature.

After more than year of bashing the Democratic "machine" that controls the Illinois Capitol, the Republican businessman could be in for a tumultuous journey when he takes office in January and tries to find solutions for the state's many persistent problems.

Among the biggest challenges will be how to balance a state budget without revenue from a tax increase that Rauner opposed. A top Democratic leader signaled Wednesday that his chamber will let the increase roll back on Jan. 1, leaving the governor-elect with a spending plan that's billions of dollars short of the amount needed to maintain current staffing and services.

And that's just for starters. Rauner has pushed a new tax on services that Democrats have opposed in the past. He also differs with some party leaders on how and when to raise Illinois' minimum wage, as well as other major issues.

Rauner defeated Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday, carrying every corner of the state except heavily Democratic Cook County.

The wealthy venture capitalist and first-time candidate from Winnetka appointed several people Wednesday to lead his transition team. He said his running mate, Wheaton City Council member Evelyn Sanguinetti, will lead the group.

"I am committed to assembling a diverse and talented team to drive results for our state and bring back Illinois," he said in an emailed statement.

Quinn conceded the race during a brief news conference, less than a day after insisting he would not give up until all ballots were counted.

"It's clear we don't have enough votes to win," he said, adding that it was important to respect the voters who waited in line — sometimes for hours — to cast their ballots. He did not take questions.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the governor-elect spent Wednesday in meetings. Rauner did not plan a public schedule because he's taking "a methodical, thoughtful approach" to the transition, Schrimpf said.

Speaking to supporters after his victory late Tuesday, Rauner said voters had asked for a divided government for the first time in many years, and that called for bipartisan solutions.

Rauner said two of his first phone calls after winning were to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton — two longtime Democratic leaders Rauner slammed during the campaign, and whose support is needed before anything gets done in Springfield.

Spokesmen for Madigan and Cullerton said Wednesday that the leaders did not directly speak with the governor-elect.

Former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar said he went four months after being elected before Madigan spoke to him. But he said the pair ultimately worked well together because Madigan knew he could trust the GOP governor to keep his word.

Edgar predicted Rauner — who's used to negotiating big deals during a lucrative career in private equity — will fare just fine. He noted that even with a Democrat in the governor's office, the Legislature has struggled to get things done.

"I think Bruce Rauner in the long run can probably have a better personal relationship with Mike Madigan than Mike Madigan has with Pat Quinn," Edgar said.

The Illinois Senate is home to the country's largest Democratic super-majority, making it possible to override a governor's veto. Democrats expressed confidence Wednesday that they would keep their veto-proof majority in the Illinois House, although at least two critical races remained undecided.

Rauner launched his gubernatorial run with a signature-driven effort calling for term limits and other changes to the Illinois House and Senate, saying he'd help clean up Springfield. Courts later found the measure unconstitutional for the ballot.

Rauner now faces the challenge of high expectations and of providing more specifics about how he will fix Illinois' financial problems than he offered on the campaign trail.

Cullerton spokesman John Patterson said Wednesday that the Senate president expects the income tax increase Democrats approved in 2011 to roll back as scheduled on Jan. 1. That drop — from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals — will reduce state revenues by billions of dollars, leaving it to Rauner and his new colleagues to broker a deal.

Quinn had pushed for making that increase permanent, but Rauner opposed it.


Associated Press Writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.

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