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Rauner at State Fair

In this Aug. 16 file photo, Gov. Bruce Rauner greets supporters before he takes the stage at a Republican Day rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Rauner on Thursday signed legislation aiming to bring more jobs to the state capital. 

Legislation aimed at bringing state jobs back to Springfield was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

House Bill 4295 makes Springfield and Sangamon County the default location for employees of most state agencies. The director of Central Management Services would have to establish a geographic location for each state job and specify why positions located outside the capital city need to be there.

The legislative and judicial branches are exempt, as are the offices of the state's constitutional officers and those employed directly by the governor's office.

The legislation addresses longstanding suspicions by some that state positions are being systematically poached from Springfield for other parts of the state, fears exacerbated by the general decline in the total number of state jobs in the past few decades.

"Ever since I became a representative and growing up in Springfield as a journalist, there's been a lot of concern among people who live in Sangamon County about where the state capital actually is," said state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove, the bill's sponsor. "Naturally, there has to be state jobs all over the state because we're a really big, diverse state. But what this bill would do is make this the default location unless it can be determined that the job needs to be in another part of the state to best serve the residents."

State jobs are scattered across all counties of the state, but the lion's share are in Sangamon County and Cook County. While the latter — home to Chicago — has a significantly higher population, workforce studies have shown other state capitals having far more state jobs than their state's largest city.

A 2016 study conducted by CMS found that nearly 400 state jobs, both filled and vacant, could be moved back to Springfield.

Rauner, who has made a point of living in Springfield since taking office in 2015, alluded to his Chicago-based predecessors moving state jobs away from Springfield to the state's largest city in the past few years.

"Springfield is our state capital. We should treat it as such," Rauner said. "One of my predecessors moved many, many hundreds of state jobs to Chicago 15 years ago ... but the reality is, Springfield is the capital. This is the where the concentration of our very talented state employees should be."

The bill only applies to open positions going forward, so state workers in other areas of the state would not be forced to move to Springfield.

While some questioned whether the legislation would create more bureaucratic red tape when hiring, proponents said it will be good for taxpayers by driving efficiency. For instance, having jobs in the centrally located capital would cut down on travel expenses.

"For obvious reasons, if you put something more central, if there's travel, it takes a lot longer to get from Chicago to Carbondale than Springfield to Carbondale," Jimenez said.

In addition to Jimenez, Rauner was joined by Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder and Land of Lincoln Economic Development Corporation CEO Eric Berglund.

Berglund, who's been on the job just a few weeks, said this bill will help Springfield further leverage its status as the capital city and thereby help the local economy.

"Obviously, being the heartbeat of state government and the state of Illinois, it's important that people are here," Berglund said. "We welcome all the new talent that's going to be moving into town and be able to fill these positions as they become available."

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