Candidates for secretary of state spar over spending

 
 
Updated 10/20/2018 12:21 AM
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Saving money, streamlining functions and improving technology are among the issues dividing candidates for Illinois secretary of state, whose office is responsible for handling driver's licenses, vehicle registration and license plates, among other duties.

Democratic incumbent Jesse White, 84, of Chicago is running for his sixth term against Republican challenger and Grundy County state's attorney Jason Helland, 42, of Mazon and Libertarian candidate Steve Dutner, 41, of Elgin.

White cites staff reduction among his accomplishments, stating in a candidate questionnaire the office now employs about 3,600 people, 500 fewer than it did in the early 2000s.

White says the general revenue fund portion of his 2019 budget is $2.4 million less than in 2010, which he attributes to streamlining and technology. Helland calls the budget "bloated."

He said $50,000 in the 2019 budget is earmarked for a National Organization of Black Elected Legislators conference.

"Legislative conferences are nice. They're not nice when we're broke," Helland said.

Dave Druker, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said Helland is referring to "legislative initiative money that has no impact on the operation" of the office.

Helland also accused White of stepping away from using technology to save money because it would reduce jobs his office controls, which White denies.

White said online transactions came to nearly $270 million in 2017, an increase of 500 percent in 10 years, which he says helped to reduce lines at state facilities.

"My Republican opponent distorts my administration's record of accomplishments because he doesn't have a record," White said in an email.

Helland proposes installing self-checkout kiosks at secretary of state facilities to expedite certain transactions but did not offer details, saying the issue requires study.

He proposes the mandatory e-filing of documents from companies seeking to incorporate in the state. He also wants restricted driving permits to be accessible online "in order for prosecutors to more quickly file charges" in criminal cases.

Dutner has called for privatizing driver services to reduce expenses.

"Shutting down government operated driver services gradually, while allowing the Illinois Department of Transportation to absorb some of its functions, will give entrepreneurs time to set up shop and provide Illinois residents with options," Dutner wrote in his candidate questionnaire. He also supports offering advertising space on the Cyberdrive webpage and removing the front license plate requirement for cars, which he says would save $800,000.

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