Candidates would merge Ill. treasurer, comptroller

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Republican candidates for Illinois treasurer and comptroller said Monday they want to merge the two positions into a single financial office for the state.

Dan Rutherford and Judy Baar Topinka say the merger would save about $12 million in rent and salary by eliminating duplication.

"There is no reason to run two constitutional offices with two staffs and two of everything else," said Topinka, who used to be state treasurer and is now running for comptroller.

The pair are visiting 20 Illinois cities to discuss the change, which would require placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot and then getting voters to approve it. The change could not take effect until 2014 at the earliest.

Under the Illinois constitution, the treasurer is responsible for holding and investing state tax dollars. The comptroller pays the state's bills, writing checks for everything from salaries to tax refunds.

The duties were divided between the two offices 40 years ago to reduce the chance of one corrupt officials embezzling or misspending the money. But Topinka and Rutherford, a state senator now running for treasurer, say modern technology makes it easier to watch the money and prevent misconduct.

Democratic comptroller nominee David Miller has spoken against merging the offices. No one answered the phone at his campaign office on Monday, and e-mails to the campaign were not immediately returned.

Democratic treasurer candidate Robin Kelly recently announced that she supports a merger, saying "leaders must pursue every avenue to save money."

Rutherford said he and Topinka have not discussed details such as what the new office would be called -- treasurer, comptroller or something brand new -- or which of them might end up being squeezed out in 2014 if the offices merge.