Illinois Treasurer Candidate Michael Frerichs: Candidate Survey

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ACROSS ILLINOIS — A downstate politician is challenging democratic incumbent Michael Frerichs, who is running for his third therm as Illinois Treasurer.

Frerichs was first elected as Illinois Treasurer in 2014. The former state senator, Champaign County Auditor and Champaign County Board member, is being challenged by Tom Demmers, a Republican who lives in Dixon and is the state representative for the 90th District.

Demmer is also the deputy minority leader in the Illinois House of Representatives and the Republican point person for the state’s fiscal issues.

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Frerichs, 49, is touting his experience and success while in office as reasons he should be re-elected while Demmer, 37, says he would serve as a much-needed Republican check, according to the Chicago Tribune. Currently, the top leaders in Illinois are all Democrats, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Secretary of State Jesse White, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Illinois Comptroller Susan Mendoza and Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton.

Frerichs won by almost 19 percentage points in the 2018 election over Republican Jim Dodge. In 2014, he was narrowly elected to office with just 9,225 more votes than Tom Cross, a Republican.

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In Illinois, the treasurer is the state’s chief investment and banking officer. The office invests money on behalf of the state and local units of government.

Frerichs recently responded to a Patch.com election survey. We’ve included his answers below:

City or town of residence

Champaign

Office sought

State Treasurer

District, if applicable

Statewide

Party affiliation

Democratic

Education

Rantoul High School, 1991 Yale University, BA 1995

Occupation

State Treasurer (8 Years)

Family

Wife (Erica) and daughter (Ella)

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

My wife works in the private sector and my parents are a retired truck driver and secretary at the University of Illinois.

Age

49

Previous public office, appointive or elective

State Senator

Champaign County Auditor

Champaign County Board

Why are you seeking this office?

Under my tenure the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has earned more than $1 billion for taxpayers and been awarded the top AAA rating for the Illinois Funds investment pool. Every dollar earned by the State Treasurer is a dollar that does not have to be raised in taxes or cut from funding for essential services in your community.

As the state’s Chief Investment Officer, I do more than make wise investments and protect taxpayer dollars, my office provides tools to help people invest in themselves.

During my tenure, I have returned more than $1.4 billion back to Illinoisans through the I-Cash program, more than any other Treasurer in history. I have expanded access to higher education by improving the 529 College Savings Program to the top-rated program in the country, earning independent analyst Morningstar’s Gold rating five years in a row. I have expanded tools like the Secure Choice program that is helping over 100,000 workers save their own money to retire with dignity and the ABLE program that is helping families plan for loved ones with disabilities.

I would continue to bring accountability, transparency, and competency to the Illinois Treasurer’s Office. I would continue to push for constant improvement in the Illinois Treasurer’s Office. Most importantly, I would continue to safeguard the state’s money and ensure that our tax dollars are invested wisely.

Please complete this statement: The single most pressing issue facing my constituents is ___, and this is what I intend to do about it.

Many Illinoisians are under significant financial pressure.

In Illinois, the State Treasurer is the state’s Chief Investment and Banking Officer. So, the first thing the State Treasurer can do is continue to invest state funds wisely. Every dollar earned by the State Treasurer is a dollar that does not have to be raised in taxes or cut from funding for essential services in your community. During my tenure, the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has earned more than $1 billion and been awarded the top AAA rating for the Illinois Funds investment pool.

America is facing a retirement savings crisis. The AARP points out that nearly half of all working-age families have nothing saved for retirement. That’s why as State Treasurer my office launched the Secure Choice program, an innovative state-facilitated retirement savings program for private-sector workers in Illinois who do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Workers save their own money and their account travels from job to job with the worker. Today over 100,000 Illinois workers have saved over $85 million for their retirement.

Paying for college or trade school has never been more expensive. That’s why as State Treasurer my office offers the Bright Start college savings plan. The Illinois’ college savings pool has more than doubled from $7 billion in 2015 to over $17 billion in assets with approximately 750,000 accounts today.

What are the major differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I was born and raised in the small downstate farming community of Gifford, Illinois. My father was a truck driver and my mother worked as a secretary at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. After graduating from college, I spent two years in Taiwan where I taught English to young students and learned to speak Chinese. I came home to Gifford where I served as a volunteer firefighter and helped found a technology business.

In 2014 the people of Illinois elected me our State Treasurer. I have put my office to work for middle- and working-class families, made innovative changes to improve the way the office works, and stood up to powerful special interests.

I have made returning unclaimed property to Illinoisans a priority. Over sometimes fierce opposition from special interests, I fought to modernize our unclaimed property laws and system. This included taking on life insurance companies that did not pay benefits even when they knew, or should have known, that their customer had passed away. The opposition was fierce, especially from big life insurance corporations. They hired expensive lobbyists to try to stop us. One even sued us to stop the Treasurer’s Office from examining their records. They flatly stated that they had “no affirmative obligation” to find and pay beneficiaries.

Eventually, with the help of great partners such as the VFW, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Citizen Action Illinois, AARP, and the NAACP, we prevailed. It took two years, two different public acts, a legal settlement, and even an override of a Governor’s veto. But we overcame the special interests and their lobbyists.

Since 2015 my office has returned a record $1.4 billion in unclaimed property (including millions of dollars in life insurance benefits) and paid over one million claims. From 2003 through 2014, my predecessors paid approximately 500,000 claims.

If you are challenging an incumbent, how would you perform differently if elected?

N/A

How would you characterize the events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol?

On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce condemned the “attacks against our nation’s Capitol Building and our democracy” and the National Association of Manufacturers issued a statement that “Armed violent protestors who support the baseless claim by outgoing president Trump that he somehow won an election that he overwhelmingly lost have stormed the U.S. Capitol today… This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such.”

I agree with their characterizations.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

Under my leadership the State Treasurer’s Office has:

* Earned more than $1 billion for taxpayers and been awarded the top AAA rating for the Illinois Funds investment pool. In 2021 Fitch Ratings said the AAA “rating reflects Fitch’s review of the pool’s investment and credit guidelines, credit quality and diversification and liquidity profile, as well as the capabilities of the Treasurer’s Office to manage the pool’s assets.”

* Launched the Secure Choice program, an innovative state-facilitated retirement savings program for private-sector workers who do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Workers save their own money and their IRA travels with them from job to job. Today over 100,000 Illinois workers have saved over $85 million for their retirement.

* Made sweeping reforms to the Bright Start and Bright Directions college savings plans. The College Savings program I inherited in 2015 had among the lowest ratings in the nation. We changed providers, cut management fees by nearly 50%, and provided more investment options to families. As a result, not only have families saved over $100 million in fees since 2015 but independent analyst Morningstar improved their rating for the Bright Start college savings program from among the worst to literally tied for first in the nation. Bright Start has now received the top Gold rating for five consecutive years. And Illinois’ college savings pool has more than doubled from $7 billion in 2015 to over $17 billion in assets with approximately 750,000 accounts today.

* Reformed the I-Cash program by changing laws and systems to make it easier to claim your money. In 2015 I inherited an unclaimed property law that was passed in 1961 and a paper-based system for claiming your money. With help from the General Assembly, we modernized Illinois’ unclaimed property law. And we updated our processes to utilize modern technology to make claiming your money faster and easier. Now people can file their claims online and upload documents directly to our website. Some easy online claims are now approved through a “Fast Track” automated review process that pays out without any additional requests for information. And under our “Money Match” program we now compare our unclaimed property data with other state records to identify taxpayers with unclaimed property under $2,000 and simply mail them a check – without them even having to file a claim. As a result, we have returned a record $1.4 billion and paid out over 1 million claims (compared to roughly 500,000 claims from 2003 through 2014 under my three predecessors).

* Launched the Achieving a Better Life Experience or ABLE program to assist families save private funds to support individuals with disabilities – without jeopardizing their federal and state benefits. Today thousands of Illinois families are saving for their loved ones with disabilities.

What was your first paying job, and what did you learn from it?

At the age of 13, I had a summer job detasseling corn for less than minimum wage. I learned what a truly hard day’s work really means.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

“The grass is always greener where you water it.”



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October 19, 2022 at 02:20PM

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