Letters to the Editor

Guest viewpoint: Treasurer is busy investing your funds

The News-Democrat on Dec. 30 opined the state could save money by eliminating the treasurer’s office.

I agree. Savings could be realized if the state handled financial transactions differently. I have said so for years and would have said so again if the BND asked me. Getting there, however, is not as clear as the BND implies.

A quick review: One person previously issued checks for the state without oversight. This absolute power was corrupting. Orville Hodge embezzled more than $6 million during the 1950s. To prevent fraud, taxpayers in the 1970s voted for a new constitution that required two people to guard the books — treasurer and comptroller. Today, we can merge the offices while keeping those important checks and balances.

But the editorial invites readers to believe that without a state budget there is nothing to be done at the treasury. This is not true. This limited understanding of what the treasurer and the comptroller offices do is why so many efforts to merge them have failed. Let me share a few responsibilities of the office.

The treasury invests nearly $25 billion in more than 700 funds, not just the handful of funds involved in this budget impasse.

We invest funds for more than 150 local governments in the BND’s circulation area. Sixty other area governments rely upon the treasury to process electronic payments, such as water bills.

The office invests funds for more than 9,400 families saving for college in the BND’s area.

The office safeguards more than $62 million in valuables that were misplaced by some 325,000 people around Belleville. Readers can search the list at www.illinoistreasurer.gov. Click the I-Cash button. The list even includes individuals associated with the BND.

And we do this efficiently — for each $1 spent in operations, the treasury returns $28 to taxpayers.

It is easy to say just get rid of something. But understanding what you are trying to get rid of is the first step in getting it done. Thanks for letting me clarify the BND’s editorial.