Treasurer candidates debate efficiency of I-CASH program
Candidates for Illinois treasurer have different views on how to tweak the state's I-CASH program.
Both see merit in the program, which helps people recover unclaimed money, but also find flaws and want to make changes.
Democrat Mike Frerichs says the program needs to be run more efficiently and is wastefully overstaffed, saying it uses roughly one-third of the treasurer's office's 160 employees plus interns.
Republican Tom Cross says the I-CASH claims process is too "laborious" and that people should be able to claim small amounts of money without having to get a notary. That would help make the program more efficient, he said.
Cross, the former Illinois House Republican leader from Oswego, and Frerichs, a Democratic state senator from Champaign, are running in the Nov. 4 election to replace Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is leaving office after an unsuccessful primary election bid for governor.
Both Cross and Frerichs favor combining the treasurer's office with the Illinois comptroller's office, a move they say could save the taxpayers millions of dollars. But they clash over who's more qualified to hold the job. Cross, 56, is an attorney with a 22-year career in politics. Frerichs, 41, is a former county auditor and a certified public accountant who has been in politics for 14 years, seven in the Illinois legislature.
The candidates also differ on how to get the state to balance its budget. Cross has proposed suing the General Assembly to force legislators to follow the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.
"The treasurer's office can and should have an aggressive role," Cross said. "Balancing the budget is a linchpin to the recovery of this state. There are other things we need to do, but it's one of them. We can't keep doing this. It's mind-boggling ... and I'm of the opinion that we can fix this."
Frerichs, however, doesn't think that's the treasurer's job. He questioned why Cross didn't do anything about the problem during his two decades in Springfield.
"If you're a lawyer, a solution to everything is to sue," Frerichs said. "I agree that we need to have balanced budgets ... but if (Cross) wants to be involved in suing people, then he probably should run for attorney general."
Cross has been endorsed by some notable Democrats, including former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner.
Frerichs said Cross' law firm does business with the city of Aurora and said he suspects Giannoulias' endorsement is payback because he did not support Giannoulias' 2010 U.S. Senate bid.
When it comes to managing the Bright Start 529 college savings program, Cross proposes quarterly audits to monitor the fund's progress, while Frerichs wants to seek outside bids to find the best company to manage the money.