Illinois Government
3:05 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Comptroller-treasurer merger advances in Ill. Senate

Updated 3:20 p.m. with Illinois Public Radio story including more detail and comment from Rutherford.

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky used in this report. 

Illinois' treasurer invests the state's money. The Comptroller pays the bills. A measure approved by the Senate today would merge the two constitutional offices.

Supporters say it makes "sense" - literally and metaphorically. According to projections, the consolidation would result in a savings of $12 million.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, supports it, as does Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

"If government can be more efficient by having less officers and less departments and so forth than government should do that," Rutherford said.

He says the current setup stems from a half century old scandal.  Former state auditor Orville Hodge embezzled $1.5 million from taxpayers.

"There was some cooking of the books and some money lost," Rutherford said. "The 1970 constitution envisioned the fact of having two officers so you have the check for one person investing the money and the balance for the other person writing the checks."

But Rutherford says that concern for checks and balances is outdated because now the offices' books are audited, and there's electronic accounting.

"Back in the days of Orville Hodge you were still using typewriters, pieces of paper and pencils," Rutherford said.

Rutherford and Topinka wouldn't be out of a job anytime soon - if it happens, the positions would stay separate until 2014.  

Original story from the Associated Press:

Illinois lawmakers are trying to merge two government offices that handle taxpayers' money.

The state Senate approved a constitutional amendment Thursday that would combine the Illinois comptroller and treasurer into a single office.

The amendment now goes to the House. If it passes there, voters will get the final say on the merger.

The treasurer invests state money, while the comptroller is in charge of writing checks and paying the bills.

Officials say Illinois could save $12 million from the merger.