Name: Jim Dodge
Office seeking: Illinois State Treasurer
City of residence: Orland Park
Campaign website: jimdodge.com
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? This office needs to be run by a professional who is focused on performance, not politics. It’s about returns on investment and doing the job the best way possible at the lowest cost. I don’t view this office as a stepping stone to some other office. I don’t view it as a way to enrich myself or my friends or my family. A core political philosophy of mine: the system often hurts exactly those people who can least afford to be hurt. The office of Treasurer must be independent and will be with me. Decisions need to be about what’s good policy, not what’s politically advantageous. First things first – I’m there to serve Illinois taxpayers. If more people knew the truth about how the system works and what the real costs of political decisions were, I believe we would see dramatic turnover in the legislature and a dramatic change in the direction our elected officials were taking us. A fully informed electorate is the enemy of the special interests. I will call it like I see it. A fair, easy to understand and thorough summary of the state’s financial condition is the goal. It will be up to the taxpayers who vote to make better informed decisions during the elections. So, at its core, I’ll put the truth out there, and trust in the voters. I’m not likely to be most the popular constitutional officer in Illinois, at least not with the political class. I really am ok with that.
What qualifications do you have for this position? The rare combination of relevant professional experience and public sector service. I’m a career professional running against a career politician. I’m not part of the political class operating out of Springfield that has given us one of the highest total tax burdens and worst financial conditions in the country. I’m a numbers nerd that cares about the future of a great state; it’s really about the people of Illinois. I’ve had a private sector job since I was 16. My union-member parents helped me, and I worked my way through college at DePaul University, I have an MBA from the University of Chicago in Finance and Economics. My 30 plus year full time business career has been all about leadership, numbers, analytics, and technology. Most recently, as senior vice president at Nielsen in Advanced Analytics and then Milliman where I was building a data science team focused on machine learning and artificial intelligence. My background also includes IT and Lean Six Sigma; I’m a co-holder of a US Patent for an analytical process. In the public sector, I’ve been honored to serve on the Orland Park Village Board since 1989. Orland Park has balanced budgets, has held its property tax levy flat for years and was able to return millions in tax refunds. I’ve been a strong and consistent proponent of bring real world business experience to my time in Orland Park. For example, we have a small team that is actively looking to improve our processes, we are investing in technology and our full-time head count is lower. I’m a current member of the Government Finance Officers Association, I’ve served in the Army National Guard and I’m a member of American Legion Post #111.
What changes would you make to the Treasurer’s office and why? As Treasurer I will refocus the office on its core duty: safely investing the state’s money. My core platform: consolidation with Comptroller, being the voice of the taxpayers, increasing transparency and sticking to the key functions of the office of Treasurer. With or without consolidation, however, the four main functions of the office should be: investing state funds, investing pooled funds from Illinois local governments, overseeing the outsourced 529 college savings programs and unclaimed property. I do not want to keep finding ways to expand the office so it’s more political relevant. Illinois needs performance, not politics. There are a number of good programs in the office of the Treasurer that have been in place for many years and many Treasurer. I will continue those and make them better, just like you’d expect a private sector executive to do. I strongly support consolidating the offices of Treasurer and Comptroller. Consolidation would save $12-$14 million annually. A key focus for me would be real transparency on the state’s finances. Right now, there is plenty of information available, but it is scattered and largely unintelligible. Three key points here: How much does the office of the Treasurer actually cost to run, not just the amount from general revenue fund? How much of the overhead gets covered by fees from unclaimed property and various fund investments, data on which are not the easiest to find? This ought to be simple: how much does it really cost to run the Office of the Governor? Treasurer? Comptroller? Etc. I want to be the voice of the taxpayers and create a simple, updated and accurate accounting of the state’s financial position. According to TruthinAccounting.org from the audited, 2017 Illinois CAFR, we have $245B of debt and obligations. That number shocks most Illinoisans, especially considering our tax bills. We need to push to make sure taxpayers have a view for the fully loaded, future costs of political decisions. This will not be easy but it’s important for taxpayers to understand the drivers of what got us into this position in the first place. It’s one thing to have honest and civil disagreements on policy, it’s another to play games with the numbers to bury the costs. Voters deserve to know how their money is being spent.
What is the most important issue facing the Treasurer’s office? How would you handle it? Consolidation with Comptroller - It should have been done years ago. It will save money and my background in business and government gives me the qualifications to lead this effort. It will save $12 million-$14 million by all publicly available estimates. It is morally wrong to ask the taxpayers of Illinois to send Springfield more of their hard-earned money until we can guarantee that tax dollars are being spent and invested in the most efficient and effective way possible. Illinois is dead last in credit score among all 50 states, but we have one of the highest total tax burdens. That can only happen when you have incompetent and dishonest politicians making promises they never intending on keeping. It hurts all of us in some way. One constitutional officer who answers to the people of Illinois, who is committed to speaking the truth about what is happening to our money and lets everyone know the real cost of political promises is a key part of healing this state.
Would you term limit yourself? If so, how many terms? Yes, two terms. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need term limits. The frustration and desire for terms limits is driven by the political class not serving the taxpayers well and for many us who have lived our lives in Illinois, the political class never seems to just go away and return to the real world.