Consolidating the Illinois comptroller and treasurer's offices is one of those evergreen ideas that keeps coming back into fashion especially around election time.
But this year Republican Sen. Dan Rutherford says the need is greater than ever.
Rutherford is running for treasurer in the Nov. 2 election against Democrat Robin Kelly, the chief of staff for incumbent Alexi Giannoulias, the Green Party's Scott Summers and Libertarian James Pauly.
Rutherford estimates the state can save $12 million by a merger, including $4 million recouped by eliminating redundant positions and office space.
The Chenoa resident said he's in a unique position to make the consolidation happen because he's supported by GOP comptroller candidate Judy Baar Topinka.
That collaboration makes for "a powerful statement, Rutherford said, adding he and Topinka intend to start lobbying the General Assembly early next year.
"You'll see the proof of the pudding in our effort in 2011, he said.
Both Rutherford and Kelly think that consolidation would allow for better cash management, so the state can recoup investment and interest payments until the last minute when funds must be disbursed.
Kelly, however, estimates the savings would be closer to $10 million. The treasurer's office already has cut fat by reducing staff by 40 people, she said, adding, "both offices have been frugal.
If elected, Kelly, a Matteson resident, said her next step would be to work out a rationale for consolidation to present to the General Assembly.
Such a policy change would require a constitutional amendment and approval by the voters.
Summers, who lives in Harvard, also endorses joining the two departments but cautioned the action would hardly solve the state's budget shortfall, estimated at around $13 billion.
"I'm not minimizing the money but for those who tout it as the big solution, the order of magnitude is out of whack, Summers said.
Pauly agreed to a merger but with the caveat that the consolidated department should have a top official and a deputy both elected by voters to reduce chances of any improprieties. "Anyone handling that level of money should have their decisions checked by someone else, the Chicago resident said.