TWO ILLINOIS legislators and a third party candidate are vying for the office of state treasurer that will be vacated by incumbent Republican Dan Rutherford, who made an unsuccessful bid for governor.
Former House Republican Leader Tom Cross and state Sen. Mike Frerichs have very different ideas about how to manage a constitutional office that primarily collects and invests state funds. Libertarian candidate Matthew Skopek has failed to mount any semblance of a campaign or make his plans known.
Cross receives our endorsement, owing to his breadth of experience earned through more than two decades in the Illinois House and 10 years as minority leader, and his vision of how to add value to the treasurer's office for the citizens of Illinois.
During a decade of Democrat control, Cross said he shared the frustration and embarrassment that many Illinoisans felt about the state's financial crisis, its backlog of unpaid bills and its worst-in-the-nation pension underfunding.
As a Republican leader from 2003-2013, Cross lacked the votes to force fiscal restraint. He said as treasurer he would have the legal standing to sue the Legislature if it failed to pass a truly balanced budget.
"The goal is not to have a lawsuit. The goal is to have a balanced budget," Cross said.
With that in mind, Cross hopes to be part of the appropriations process, helping advise the General Assembly of what is available to spend -- or what will exceed the state's finances.
As part of Cross' partnership with lawmakers, and accountability to the public, he would publish a quarterly "report card" on the state's fiscal condition. As both a printed and online resource, the report would provide the necessary details of Illinois finances.
Cross also has pledged to work toward consolidation of the treasurer and comptroller offices. Early estimates put annual savings at $12 million. The merger of those offices was proposed several years ago, but has been bottled up in the Legislature.
As a safeguard for taxpayer dollars, Cross also wants to create a government integrity unit to review all state financial documents.
Frerichs has been a member of the state Senate for eight years and was previously the Champaign County auditor. He wants to conduct an audit of the treasurer's office and put an end to "cronyism and corruption" among those he supervises.
While those may be worthy goals, audits of all state offices are conducted periodically, and as a constitutional officer, Frerichs or anyone else would have the power to safeguard against wrong-doing by those under his supervision.
Cross is better suited to make the treasurer's office work for the people of Illinois.
His long service as a counterweight to an overwhelming Democratic majority in the Legislature gives him the proper perspective on the importance of constitutional officers. His desire to see the state reform its finances is appropriate for the office of treasurer.
Tom Cross is commended to voters for Illinois treasurer.