Name: Mike Frerichs
Office seeking: Illinois State Treasurer
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City of residence: Champaign
Campaign website: frerichsforillinois.com
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I am running because I love this state and know that we have great strengths. We also have great challenges and I have worked to find solutions to them. Over the last four years, as the State Treasurer, we have more than quadrupled interest income into the state, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in interest that would not have to be raised in taxes. We have slashed fees that families were paying to save for college and in the process were recognized as operating two of the best programs in the country. We have fought companies that were holding onto money that belongs to our citizens and set records for the amounts we returned to Illinois residents. We have returned over half a billion dollars in my first term. I will continue to expand upon these, and other successes in a second term.
What qualifications do you have for this position? I am a Certified Public Finance Officer (CPFO). Previously, I served as Champaign County Auditor where I received awards for our financial reporting. As State Senator for the 52nd District I served as Chairman of both the Higher Education Committee and the Agriculture Committee as well as serving on the Pension and Investments Committee and the Banking Committee. I have also served for four years as the State Treasurer and during my first term, I put the State Treasurer’s office to work for regular people, making innovative changes to improve the way the office works and standing up to powerful special interests. My office has helped families save for college by slashing fees charged by Wall Street banks. We have created new opportunities for children with disabilities to save for their future, and for more than a million citizens to save for their retirement. We have also taken on big life insurance corporations who were withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits meant for widows and orphans. I am proud of the work we have done and I hope to continue on these successes.
What changes would you make to the Treasurer’s office and why? First and foremost, we need to continue our focus on maximizing investment returns. We have more than quadrupled our returns since taking office, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars to help with our budget problems. We will continue to find efficiencies that save money for the state like we did when I conducted an audit of our office on day one. I also believe that we can use this office to ensure that more people have the opportunity to earn and achieve success. I think we need to continue to give people the tools they need to invest in themselves. We must help more families open college savings accounts and ABLE accounts for those with disabilities. There is a retirement crisis in this country and we can help more people to save their own money so that they can enjoy their golden years and have a retirement with dignity. It is my mission to improve upon the successes of the past 4 years and ensure my office is increasing transparency, maximizing returns on investments and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars.
What is the most important issue facing the Treasurer’s office? How would you handle it? The most important issue facing the state is our budget, and although the Treasurer has no role in passing the budget, I have tried to be helpful by increasing interest income, improving transparency of state finances, and helping to grow our economy their wise investments and giving people the tools they need to invest in themselves. The state has been spending way too much money on interest payments these last three years and that is why my office introduced bipartisan legislation (SB 2858) that allows the Treasurer’s Office to invest up to $2 billion in the state’s unpaid vouchers at a market-driven rate (at current market rates, approximately 3.5%) rather than the 9% or 12% late payment penalty rate currently assessed on such vouchers. This legislation will provide the state up to $100 million per $1 billion invested in additional cost savings and incremental investment earnings. Plus, the investment earnings stay in state funds. One Republican legislator described our legislation as one of the most creative approaches to the problem that he had seen. We will continue to propose new ways to help the Governor and General Assembly address our most pressing issue and get our fiscal house in order.
Would you term limit yourself? If so, how many terms? I will stop serving when I am no longer motivated to come into work and improve the office every day. We have significantly improved interest income for the state, dramatically improved our college savings programs, created new programs to help people with disabilities and those struggling to save for retirement. We have stood up to big corporations holding onto our citizens’ money and worked to give opportunities to those who have traditionally been denied. I feel that there is more work that I can do and other challenges that need to be addressed and that is why I am asking for a second term as State Treasurer. I hope that the votes agree with me.