Speaker Michael J. Madigan is re-forming a bipartisan committee to review the state’s use of public-private partnerships, and ensure partnerships pursued by Gov. Bruce Rauner operate transparently and ethically. A previous House committee was stonewalled by Rauner’s administration during an initial investigation last year, but a recent report by the Better Government Association (BGA) raised questions about potential conflicts of interest and other administrative problems within Rauner’s Intersect Illinois Corporation, a private corporation coordinating economic development with the state.
“Done effectively, public-private partnerships can offer increased opportunity for cooperation between the state and businesses, but these partnerships must be held to the same standards of ethics and accountability we expect from all who serve the public,” Madigan said. “The governor has prioritized using outside groups for economic development and infrastructure projects, and this committee will work to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately and in a way that allows the public to review all decisions and interactions.”
Madigan has appointed Assistant Majority Leader Lou Lang to chair the Special Committee on Public-Private Partnerships. State Rep. Chris Welch will serve as vice chair. Reps. Will Davis, Carol Sente and Fred Crespo will serve on the committee, along with five House Republican appointees.
Earlier this month, the BGA released a report questioning the efficiency, transparency and potential conflicts of interest within Rauner’s Intersect Illinois Corporation. Intersect Illinois is not an official sanctioned public-private partnership, but a private corporation with which Rauner has directed state agencies to coordinate economic development initiatives. As a result, Intersect operates with limited oversight and accountability. According to the report, Intersect Illinois raised funds from 41 private and public organizations in the state, but has not published the amounts raised or disclosed whether any benefits have been conferred on its contributors, despite the governor’s commitment that such items would be made public. The BGA also found one of Intersect’s first actions was to hire a Florida consulting firm with extensive ties to Republican politics. Professional fees being paid to the firm are redacted on Intersect’s public website.
BGA found Intersect Illinois’ disclosure of taxpayer-funded incentives offered to businesses as “spotty,” and noted that promises to publish board minutes have not been followed consistently.
“It’s important that as we pursue these new ventures we do not lose sight of our basic commitment to serve the public ethically and transparently,” Madigan said. “This committee will provide bipartisan oversight, evaluation and study of Illinois’ use of public-private partnerships, and further our efforts to work cooperatively with the governor.”