Republican state treasurer candidate James Dodge acknowledged Thursday he was mistaken over how a hallmark of his campaign — a proposed constitutional amendment to combine the offices of treasurer and comptroller — would go before voters.
Dodge’s admission to a reporter came after he, Democratic Treasurer Mike Frerichs and Libertarian candidate Michael Leheney appeared before an endorsement session of the Chicago Tribune editorial board leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
During the session, Frerichs also said he has not spoken to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner since the two were inaugurated in 2015.
Dodge and Frerichs both support combining the offices of treasurer and comptroller in a move that could save an estimated $12 million. Such a move would require a state constitutional amendment, approved by three-fifths of the members of the state House and Senate, to be submitted to voters for ratification.
In discussing the proposal, Dodge told the editorial board that he should be treasurer to act as a point person to assist voters on such a proposed amendment when it “comes out of the House and let’s say the governor signs it.”
Under the Illinois Constitution, governors don’t have signing or veto power over proposed constitutional amendments.
Asked about his comment afterward by a reporter, Dodge said governors “have to sign the legislation to put it in front of the ballot” before voters.
Told he was incorrect, Dodge replied: “OK. I stand corrected.”
Dodge and Republican candidate Darlene Senger, a former state lawmaker from Naperville, have campaigned extensively across the state to tout the office consolidation. While Frerichs also backs consolidation, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza believes the two offices should remain independent.
Proposals to combine the two offices have been around for years. In the 2010 Republican campaign for state comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka also backed such a move. Dodge, who also sought the GOP nomination for comptroller, then called Topinka’s plan a “campaign ploy.”
Asked during the editorial board session if he has had a change of heart on the consolidation issue between 2010 and now, Dodge, an Orland Park village trustee said, “I don’t know if I said I was against it at the time. It was just kind of floating around as an idea.”
During his initial bid for governor in 2014, Rauner made a similar error about the process of approving constitutional amendments in his push for term limits. At a news conference, Rauner said he would seek support to elect like-minded lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment that he could sign.
Before the editorial board, Dodge said his goal was to reduce the scope of the treasurer’s office and bring it “back to just the core focus” of state investments and “being an advocate for the taxpayers.
Frerichs cited improved investment returns and upgraded college loan programs under his tenure as well as the Secure Choice program requiring most Illinois businesses with at least 25 employees to offer a private savings plan or enroll in a state coordinated plan.
Frerichs said the Secure Choice program was an example of trying to work behind the scenes with critics to advance the plan rather than holding news conferences to attack and “generate headlines.”
But Frerichs said he has not met with Rauner since the two took office.
“We sat down after we were both elected, before we were inaugurated,” Frerichs said. “I sat there. We talked awhile. He didn’t say very much.”
Leheney, the Libertarian candidate, said the treasurer’s office was needed in part to go beyond the intense partisanship among the two major parties. He said that seeking to combine it with comptroller would eliminate a source of “checks and balances” and deny voters an elective office.
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August 30, 2018 at 05:15PM