Name: Darlene Senger
Office seeking: Illinois Comptroller
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City of residence: Naperville
Campaign website: https://darlenesenger.com
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? As the CFO for Illinois, the comptroller should be a fiscal watchdog. Throughout my career, I have placed a strong emphasis on proactive and responsive customer/constituent service, transparency and honesty. I would bring that approach to serving as comptroller. We must establish a constituent service department that interacts with the groups most impacted by the state’s fiscal mismanagement. Our ever-growing backlog and delayed payment cycle are hurting small businesses, social services and other community organizations. We need to do a better job of working with our local communities. The comptroller’s office has a responsibility to be honest with the public about the budget-making process. With the information that is available internally, I can serve as a sounding board for fiscal decisions the governor and general assembly enact. I’ll work with the governor regardless of his party to craft a February budget and will avail myself to the GA members in appropriation meetings. The comptroller must be a public servant and maintain an independent perspective. If elected, I will dedicate the next four years of my life to this role in order to put Illinois on a better, more sustainable financial path.
What qualifications do you have for this position? I earned a finance degree from Purdue University and an MBA from DePaul University. Regarding my professional experience, I worked as a director for a bank in their Trust Department, a pension consultant, investment advisor, and the CFO for a state agency. I also have experience with and understand municipal and state governments. More specifically, I have built my career managing complex budgets and creating bold fiscal policies that have benefited those I represented on the Naperville City Council, the Illinois legislature and as CFO for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Now more than ever, it is critical to have a Comptroller who leads by example and keeps their own spending in line while bringing attention to the fiscal issues facing our state. Because of my collective experiences, I have a plethora of policy suggestions to develop for tax savings.
What is the most important issue facing the Comptroller’s office? How would you handle it? The comptroller faces challenges of fiscal mismanagement of Illinois and the state’s debt. The $8 billion backlog number does not include actual pension liability or bonding debt which greatly increase Illinois’ overall debt. We must be more efficient with how the office pays bills. The public needs to know that politics isn’t determining which bills are being paid and when. Using a financial arbitrator can help restore this confidence. Reducing the prompt payment costs and providing greater transparency to the bill payment process, will better incorporate best practices to reduce bill backlogs. As an effort to improve fiscal management, the issue of consolidating the treasurer and comptroller offices must be addressed. This could save residents of Illinois roughly $12 million. Most importantly, this issue should be the voters’ to decide. Many government officials have supported this, including the entire 2012 Illinois Senate, Judy Baar Topinka and Dan Rutherford. It is time to revisit this issue and finally put the power in the hands of voters.
There is still a bill backlog of billions of dollars. How would you prioritize the state’s bill backlog? The comptroller’s office manages millions of invoices each year; however, there is a lack of transparency as it relates to the bill payment process. Considering this is one of the largest responsibilities of the comptroller, I believe it is critical to look within the office budget and identify a path towards a third party, independent leader who will oversee the payment cycle. This will give taxpayers a greater assurance that politics isn’t coming into play from Illinois’ Chief Financial Officer. Another change that can improve payment of unpaid bills is the continued passage of balanced budgets. This is a necessity that will gradually move our state in the right direction. The inability to pay our bills was an issue during the budget impasse. And the unpaid bills were a result of the general assembly’s failure to pass a budget for the governor to sign. Lastly, in addition to the bill backlog number currently highlighted by the comptroller’s office, I will show and address the actual pension liability that is greatly increasing Illinois’ overall debt. Acknowledging the true pension liability on the comptroller website is crucial to informing residents about the extent of this problem.
Would you term limit yourself? If so, how many terms? Simply stated, yes. The office holder’s time in office should be limited to two terms.