Rutherford would rather not rumble

DeWayne Bartels
Wayne Baum, left, and Illinois Sen. Dan Rutherford talk politics at Eureka College before the election that made Rutherford Illinois State Treasurer.

When the election results were tabulated, earlier this month, Illinois Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac), emerged as one of two Republicans to grab a constitutional office from Democrat domination.

Rutherford became state treasurer and Judy Barr Topinka became comptroller.

Rutherford is a sitting Illinois Senator, who serves Woodford County until his swearing-in as treasurer in January.

Rutherford said last week, he wanted this office to bring the state’s fiscal situation under control.

“The economy in Illinois is a mess. The financial situation of government is a mess. A businessman with government experience needed to step up,” Rutherford said.  

Rutherford said there are two ways he can help turn the state government’s fiscal situation — which now stands at $13 billion in the red — around.

“I will have a say in short-term borrowing. The treasurer has to sign off on that,” he said.

“And, I will have the bully pulpit that comes with holding a state-wide office.”

The treasurer serves as the state’s banker. His primary responsibility is to protect and invest taxpayers’ money.

According to the treasurer’s website, state lawmakers budget almost all of the tax dollars collected each year, but that money is not spent all at once. At any given time, the treasurer manages about $17 billion in state and local funds.

These funds are invested so the state can earn interest to fund schools, transportation improvements, hospitals and general state operations.

The remainder of the tax dollars is deposited to fund low-interest loans to consumers, farmers and businesses.

The treasurer’s office also administers programs to promote the financial health of Illinois residents by preventing predatory lending and administering the Bright Star College Savings Program.

Rutherford said he believes he can do more to turn around the state’s fiscal situation as treasurer than he could as a state senator.

“As treasurer I will have a constituency that is state-wide. I’ll use my skill set to articulate what needs to be done on a state-wide stage,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford said despite the fact that Democrats still control the General Assembly and the majority of constitutional offices it will not severely limit his ability to make a difference in state finances.

“Yes, if you try to play party politics (it would limit his ability). But, Illinois is ready for statesmen,” Rutherford said. “I’m not looking to be partisan. I will work with the governor and general assembly no matter their party.”

Rutherford said the people of Illinois are beyond playing the blame game.

“I’m not going to be an obstructionist. I’m going to try to find ways we can work together,” Rutherford said.

“I’ve spoken to Gov. Quinn. I’ve offered to work with him. He was state treasurer once.”

Rutherford said he has spoken to Senate President John Cullerton, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White. He has a call in to Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.

“I will be different. I’m not going to play the politics of the past,” Rutherford said. “We have a heck of a mess and the people are ready for a solution.”

Rutherford said the public will see some dramatic changes in the treasurer’s office.

“There will be a lot of behind-the-scenes moves, but I will also be very vocal,” Rutherford said.

“I’m closing the treasurer’s six satellite offices. I’m working with comptroller-elect Judy Barr Topinka to consolidate the comptroller’s and treasurer’s office. I think elected officials are really at the point where they want to resolve things.”