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Rauner's Wife Hires New Chief Of Staff For $100K Amid State Social Service Cuts

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 25, 2016 6:06PM

Photo credit: John Gress/Getty Images
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s wife Diana announced the hiring of a new chief of staff over the weekend, nearly at the same time another large social service provider announced it would have to make drastic cuts.

On Friday, Lutheran Social Services, which provides housing, behavioral health, addiction childcare, homecare and services to seniors, announced it would close 30 of its programs that serve some 4,700 people, eliminating 750 jobs. The agency, which has been in business since 1867 and provided services to 73,000 people last year, cited the state’s budget impasse for the cutbacks.

“Currently, we are owed more than $6 million by the state for services delivered,” said LSSI President and CEO Mark Stutrud in a press release. “After seven months, we can no longer provide services for which we aren’t being paid."

Affected programs include drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health counseling, respite services for veterans, re-entry services for prisoners and more. The programs seeing the largest cuts are those for senior citizens.

Over the weekend, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart and the National Alliance on Mental Illness denounced the governor for the cutbacks. In a joint statement given to the Daily Herald, Dart and NAMI said:

“For the governor to allow these programs to wither away is simply deplorable. Without Lutheran's diversion programs, my Cook County Jail population will rise, costing taxpayers significantly more in both the short-term and long-term."

Predictably, Rauner put the blame on state democrats for not passing his “Turnaround” agenda, which would significantly weaken labor in the state and give big business more power.

“Tom Dart knows very well that groups like Lutheran Social Services could be fully funded tomorrow if he and Mike Madigan placed a higher priority on social services than defending the out-of-control, job-killing power of special interests,” Dart spokesperson Catherine Kelly said in a statement.

But while Rauner seems to believe only state democrats are at fault for not putting a “high priority” on social services, it seems those also take a back seat to some of his interests. CBS reported on Friday that the state has chosen Emily Bastedo to replace Sara Wojcicki Jimenez as Diana Rauner’s Chief of Staff, at a $100,000 a year salary. That the governor’s wife has a chief of staff at $100,000 a year was controversial last year, when she initially created the position around the time Rauner began talking about massive budget cuts. According to Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois, due to Diana Rauner’s lack of public appearances, it’s not clear why the position is needed. “I’m not sure a $100,000 Chief of Staff without a clear presence or a clear policy role is justified,” Redfield told CBS.

What is very clear though, is just how much Rauner is willing to spend to justify his actions this past year in the coming election cycle. According to the Tribune, the governor’s political campaign just cut a $900,000 check to the Illinois Republican Party, which brings the total amount of money he’s passed to the state GOP to nearly $9 million since he took the 2014 primary election. Rauner hinted that the money would be used to call out state democrats for supporting Speaker Michael Madigan.