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Guest Column: Taxpayers would benefit from merger of fiscal offices
By Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford
As the Illinois state treasurer, I strongly support legislation which would allow taxpayers to vote on a consolidation of the state’s two fiscal offices of the Treasurer and the Comptroller in 2012.
This common-sense merger saves taxpayers more than $12 million annually through operational efficiencies and improved cash management.
Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 13 is already working its way through the legislative process. If approved by the General Assembly, the agreement triggers a 2012 ballot question allowing voters to consolidate the operations and functions of the two offices. Each chamber of the General Assembly must send the constitutional amendment to voters with a three-fifths majority.
I am a longtime advocate of this consolidation. In these tough economic times, we must scrutinize every dollar of state spending. There is no place better for me to start looking for efficiencies than my own office. Illinois cannot tax and borrow our way out of this current deficit; instead, we must reduce state spending, build a pro-business climate where private sector jobs are created, and find common ground on significant reform to the public pension system for all future earnings accrued.
It was back at the Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1970 that the two separate fiscal offices were created. At the time, leaders saw the importance of a system of checks and balances created by having a pair of fiscal constitutional officers. Times have changed. The advents of both technology and the inspector general’s office have made the precaution of separate offices redundant and inefficient.
As the system stands today, the treasurer invests dollars to achieve the best possible return for taxpayers while the comptroller pays the bills. With the financial constitutional offices under one roof, a single elected leader would be empowered to invest state dollars without losing valuable time coordinating with another government office.
Illinois would further save through more efficient office operations. Reductions in staffing, equipment, and building space savings would exceed $4 million annually, according to estimates. When combined with the savings from improved investments, Illinois taxpayers would save more than $12 million annually through consolidation.
Some question why as treasurer, I would ever publicly support legislation that would drive me straight out of office. The answer is easy, it’s the right thing to do.
Dan Rutherford is the Illinois state treasurer.
From the April 20-26, 2011 issue