Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker announced he will personally cover the cost of roughly doubling the salaries of 20 of his key staffers.
“The governor-elect is committed to recruiting top talent to state government to best address the challenges Illinois faces,” Pritzker’s spokesman said. “As a result, an LLC has been created that will enable the governor-elect to personally compensate some staff in addition to their government salary.”
Set aside for now the questions about conflicted loyalties this raises. Others will be debating that – for whom do they work, Pritzker or the state?
The bigger problem is Pritzker’s notion of “top talent.” They are political operatives he’s subsidizing.
What do these recipients say about Pritzker’s priorities?
Those identified so far, who will get total comp up to nearly $300,000 per year, include Ann Caprara, Pritzker’s campaign manager; Emily Bittner, a career communications staffer; Nikki Budzinski, Pritzker’s Senior Advisor on his campaign; former state rep Christian Mitchell; and former A.G. candidate Jesse Ruiz. Only one, arguably, may bring any financial insight to the table – Dan Hynes, former Illinois Comptroller.
Name even one interesting, bold or realistic comment or idea about our fiscal crisis that has ever come from any of them, or from Pritzker.
Most of them helped get Pritzker elected. Whoopee. So did $171 million from Pritzker, an incompetent opponent — Bruce Rauner – the least popular governor in America, and an election year in which Pritzker’s party ran the field statewide.
On fiscal issues, the Pritzker campaign they helped design offered nothing but pipe dreams the state can’t afford.
The talent Pritzker should be assembling is the same that Rauner should have assembled – the best financial restructuring experts in the country, capable of handling the mother of all insolvencies. That’s because Illinois’ insolvency is phenomenally complex, unlike anything we’ve seen before. It encompasses the consolidated problem of insolvent municipalities, including Chicago.
When I say he needs the best I don’t mean people like me. I mean people like Kevyn Orr, who was Detroit’s emergency manager. Or William Isaac, a former Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation who has written about what he thinks Illinois and Chicago may need.
As a lawyer earlier I sometimes worked on large corporate bankruptcies. Their reorganization plans would often be so long and complex that it took every ounce of mental energy I had just to get my mind around it. I learned I had to got to bed thinking about it to retain all that was in it.
But none of that compares to what Illinois is facing. Those will be tic-tac-toe compared to the multidimensional chess needed to reform Illinois. Pritzker evidently isn’t thinking in those terms.
We intend to give Pritzker a fair chance. That chance will come in his State of the State and budget addresses, both coming within a month. So far, however, this isn’t looking good.
–Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.