Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quinn taps key Democratic negotiator

By Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn named Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat and a deputy majority leader for House Speaker Michael Madigan, as director of the Illinois Department of Transportation. He replaces former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointee, Milton Sees, who served in the position since 2007.

Hannig, an accountant, had been a state representative since 1979 and served as the chief budget negotiator for the Democratic Caucus. Quinn said Hannig has the experience, expertise and integrity to lead the department.

Kent Redfield, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Springfield, described the move as a positive step for the Quinn administration, potentially improving rather strained relations between the executive and legislative branches as they prepare to negotiate a long-awaited capital plan and a spending plan for federal stimulus funds. As Madigan’s second in command, Hannig is well-known and well-liked in both houses and on both sides of the aisle, Redfield said. “He knows the issues. He’s widely respected, and very, very experienced.”

Hannig said this morning that communication suffered under the Blagojevich administration because promises repeatedly were made and broken. He said he thinks that a little trust could go a long way. “I know them [members of the General Assembly] by name, and they know me, and I am not going to lie to them,” Hannig said.

Hannig said he has been meeting with Christine Reed, chief engineer and director of the department’s Highway Division, to prepare for the job and for handling federal stimulus funds. Hannig said that he thinks they make a good team because while he has budgeting experience, she has the engineering expertise.

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