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Our View: Don't give up on consolidation plan

Published: Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Let’s hope this year is the last one in which Illinois voters will elect a comptroller and treasurer to statewide office.

The two offices can and should be combined, which would require voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution.

We suspect they would, if House Speaker Michael Madigan would allow the question on the ballot.

Illinois has a comptroller, whose job is to pay the bills, and a treasurer, whose job is to invest its money. Multiple attempts have been made to combine the two offices. Judy Baar Topinka, the current comptroller, has proposed doing so, as has Republican treasurer candidate Tom Cross and his Democratic opponent, Mike Frerichs.

As The Associated Press reported this week, Democratic comptroller candidate Sheila Simon opposes the idea, saying there are other ways for the state to save money.

Topinka and Treasurer Dan Rutherford estimated in 2011 that combining their offices into one “Comptroller of the Treasury” would save taxpayers about $12 million a year.

We supported the idea then and still do now. There is no reason for the state to have two separate offices with so much overlap. Of the five people either holding or seeking the offices, four agree they could be consolidated.

Madigan does not agree, however, and has used the power of his position to prevent amendment proposals from coming to a vote in the House. Most recently, a proposed constitutional amendment that was approved 55-0 in the state senate in 2011 was denied a vote in the state house.

It is yet another example of the outsized power that Madigan has, and his dedication to maintaining the old order, even when so many agree that change is needed.

The state needs to show leadership in the push to streamline the many layers of government in Illinois and reduce the cost to operate government at large.

There are adequate safeguards in place to investigate fraud, including executive inspectors general for both the comptroller and treasurer.

The consolidation of the offices has popular support and should not be abandoned. Saving money should be the top priority for Illinois government today, and this is one way to accomplish it.

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