Illinois treasurer not running for governor

Michael Frerichs focused on state's finances

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - Some of the Illinois budget talk recently has shifted to pursuing another stopgap measure.

That doesn't really solve anything.

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs discussed the financial struggles and the state's prospects during an appearance on 4 the Record.

Frerichs says another stopgap measure isn't what the state needs.

"It would change how we're able to invest," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. "I think we earn some more money if we had a full year budget. It depends who's affected by it. If the stopgap just covers K through 12 education, that's good for them. But, if it doesn't cover higher education, it's very bad for them. I just think we need to stop with the stopgaps. We need to sit down and focus on getting a real budget put in place for this year. It should be the number one priority for the governor. Some people would say the stopgap is better than nothing and that's true. But, if a stopgap keeps you from ever getting to a final resolution, then that is not a good thing."

Frerichs has not been shy during the stalemate. He's criticized the governor for his positions. It seems to be his way of trying to influence the process.

"Before I said anything publicly, I wrote multiple letters to the governor's office telling them the consequences of inaction," Frerichs said. "I think we sent six letters in the last year and received responses on none of them. It was obvious we're coming to the end of session. They weren't looking like they were going to pass a budget and the credit rating agencies had made it clear if they didn't pass a budget, we'd be downgraded. And, so I got up publicly and said there are real consequences. Focus on governing, less on campaigning and I just haven't seen that yet."

We don't always think of the treasurer as being a political position. Frerichs is a Democrat. There are people who think it's not appropriate for him to get involved in the political fights.

"I've chosen to focus on financial issues and pointing out that when we don't get this done, it costs the state more money," Frerichs said. "It costs us more. We issue debt. You know, last year the governor issued $550 million in debt and professors from the University of Illinois calculated that we're going to spend an additional $70 million in interest because of our credit downgrades. That's $70 million that won't be spent fixing our roads and bridges. It won't be going into our schools, our community colleges. There are real consequences here that I think the treasurer has a voice and a role to point out."

Frerichs' outspokenness could seem to indicate he has higher aspirations. That's something the treasurer denies.

"I like this office," Frerichs said. "There's plenty of time to campaign down the road."

Down the road like campaign for governor down the road?

"No, to campaign for state treasurer," Frerichs said. "What I'm focused on is doing my job as state treasurer. I like this job, intend to focus on it and I think that's what other people should be doing. Focus on the job you ran for, not the next election."


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