Comptroller Topinka: Candidate Profile

Comptroller (Republican)

 
Updated 10/9/2014 11:22 AM

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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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BioQ&A

 

Bio

City: Springfield

Website: judybaartopinka.com

Office sought:

Comptroller

Age: 70

Family: Son, Joseph; daughter-in-law Christina; granddaughter Alexandra Faith Baar Topinka.

Occupation: Illinois State Comptroller

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Education: Graduate of Ferry Hall High School in Lake Forest and earned a Bachelors of Science degree in 1966 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Civic involvement: Earned awards from more than 250 civic, business, professional and social service organizations, including the "Molly Pitcher" Award (1994); The Prairie Institute's Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Outstanding Public Service (1998); Americanism Award from the Anti-Defamation League (1999); The Money Smart Award from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (2002); National Association of Women Business Owners Chicago Area Chapter Hall of Fame (2003); the Asian American Coalition of Chicago Grand Asian Award (2003); the Department of the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal; and the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award (2003).

Elected offices held: Illinois State House of Representatives; Illinois State Senate; Illinois State Treasurer; Illinois State Comptroller

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.

Questions & Answers

How would you streamline your office's duties to save the state money?

Efficiency has been a priority for me from the get-go. We moved from paper checks and postage to electronic deposit. We created the online Ledger, giving taxpayers everything from daily account balances to State salaries. As a result, the Comptroller’s Office has returned an average of 11 percent of its budget annually, and $8.3 million over three years. We have the lowest headcount in the history of the Office and a budget that matches what it was in 1998 " and we’ve just begun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

What is something the office could be doing now that it isn't?

We have made incredible gains in transparency and accountability. But it’s just the start. As technology grows we look forward to making government even more transparent and accessible to taxpayers. We recognize that what we’ve accomplished is good for now, but we need to take advantage of new opportunities to bring government to taxpayers and ensure they can follow every dollar spent in Springfield.

What in your background makes you qualified for a specialized office like this?

I served as State Treasurer for three terms, so I understand our State’s fiscal offices. As Comptroller, I have grown a new appreciation for the pain our State causes not-for-profits, service agencies and small businesses with its bill backlog and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that they do not suffer because of payment delays. I have traveled the State to raise awareness: if you are on the verge of slashing services or shuttering your doors because of payment delays, please call us. I believe we owe that to those doing business with the State.

Should your office be combined with the treasurer's?

Of course it should. We can save taxpayers $12 million annually without anyone knowing the difference. It is ridiculous that we would do anything less and frankly I am stunned that my challenger opposes the merger. We can talk about merging certain functions " but why not combine the offices and give taxpayers the greatest savings possible? It is common sense and it’s past time that we got it done.

Is there anything the comptroller can do to help ease the state's bill backlog?

As Comptroller, I can only pay bills as revenue allows. But I am able to prioritize bills to make sure that those most in need receive payment. I have ensured that not-for-profits, service agencies and small businesses serving our most vulnerable residents can continue their work. They operate on shoestring budgets and serve residents at a fraction of what it would cost the State. We have a moral obligation to ensure they don’t wait months on end for what they are owed " and I will continue to prioritize their payments in a second term as Comptroller.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

I will continue to speak out against the spending, borrowing and shenanigans that got our State into this financial mess. Illinois has made a practice of budget games, numbers ploys and other political pranks that have led to financial ruin. I take pride in being a voice of common sense and in calling out the gimmicks. That will continue in a second term. I believe our state is ready to make a change and I relish the chance to be a leading voice in that effort.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Mark Kirk: he’s a fighter who never gives up. The way he overcame incredible challenges to return to the Senate is truly inspiring.

What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?

My grandparents were from the Depression Era and taught me to save so you have something at the end. Don’t spend what you don’t have.

If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?

Taking on Blagojevich again and finding a way for people to understand not just the corruption, but the extraordinary cost of his mismanagement.

What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?

History: it allowed me to zero in on great leaders and emulate their traits and tactics.

If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Be kind and have a good heart.