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Rauner's Top Education Advisor Had Salary Paid From Agency That Faces Millions In Cuts

By aaroncynic in News on May 28, 2015 7:15PM

While Governor Bruce Rauner has been busy trying to defend his plan to "Turnaround Illinois" by shaking money out of a host of social programs and busting unions, he’s also been finding clever ways to keep his closest allies paid very well. According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Actrequest by the Sun-Times, Education Secretary Beth Purvis, who takes home a salary of $250,000 a year, is being paid with money from the Department of Human Services budget, rather than the governor’s office budget.

Purvis, who served as CEO of a network of 15 charter schools in Chicago and Rockford before being hired by Rauner in March, declined to comment. The Governor’s office said she was being paid out of the DHS budget because “a portion of her portfolio is early childhood development.”

That however, doesn’t explain why Purvis would be paid from a cash-strapped budget the Governor has promised to keep on the chopping block. In April, just three weeks after Purvis signed her contract, the Governor’s office announced $26 million in cuts to DHS in a move some referred to as the “Good Friday Massacre.” After taking some serious heat, Rauner was able to find money to restore most of what was cut, but DHS is still staring at millions in losses.

State Representative Greg Harris, chair of the Appropriations-Human Services Committee, told the Sun-Times he had no idea that Purvis’ salary was being paid out of the DHS budget:

“It’s financial trickery, it’s not transparent. This is a huge salary, especially when on Good Friday you’re cutting autism and epilepsy, and you’re paying someone at the same time a quarter of a million bucks?”

Rauner, who has continually blasted unions and state employees for making too much money, has taken criticism before for showering staff with six-figure salaries. According to the Herald-Review, former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle, now Rauner’s chief operating officer, will make nearly $200,000 when she goes on the state payroll in June. The governor’s chief of staff, Mike Zolnierowicz, will take in $180,000 a year, and his deputy governor, Olin "Trey" Childress III, brings home $198,000 a year. In total, according to the Chicago Tribune, Rauner’s top 10 employees are bringing in roughly $380,000 more a year than those of former governor Pat Quinn, an increase of 36 percent.

Rauner has defended the inflated salaries by saying that those working for him would be making more in the private sector. “We have a mindset too much in government that everybody’s identical, everyone should be treated the same. People should be compensated based on talent. We could pay everybody the same and have lots of mediocre folks.”

Indeed, it seems when it comes to “shared sacrifices” to solve our state’s budget woes, treating people the same is far from the governor’s plan.