Treasurer calls 2014 election ‘pivotal’
By Mike Nolan email@example.com August 12, 2013 5:54PM
Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford talks to members of the Southland Chamber of Commerce Monday at the Tinley Park Convention Center. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 14, 2013 6:14AM
While it wasn’t a stump speech, state treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford on Monday told Southland business leaders that the 2014 election is “pivotal,” and the next governor “may well determine where Illinois is going to go for a very long time to come.”
Rutherford, who has been treasurer since January 2011, talked for a bit about waste and inefficiency that he said he has purged from his office. But he focused most of his comments to the Southland Chamber of Commerce on the state’s fiscal ills — calling Illinois the “most financially stressed state in all of America” — and, in particular, its pension funding crisis.
Rutherford described the 2014 election as a “pressure point” for legislators facing re-election, with voters rewarding those who act decisively on the pension issue and dismissing the rest.
Pension reform “is not going to be pretty” and has the potential to be painful, with the likelihood of scaled-back benefits to current and future retirees, he said. But legislative leaders who’ve balked at more substantial reform measures can no longer ignore the fiscal path the state is on, Rutherford said.
“Some tough love needs to come into the capital city,” he told the chamber meeting at the Tinley Park Convention Center. “What it’s going to take is everybody putting it all on the table.”
Along with Illinois’ sinking bond rating, which has made it more expensive for the state to borrow money, Rutherford said drastic steps taken to shore up the state’s financial condition haven’t achieved their goals.
In January 2011, when legislators voted to raise the state income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, outstanding bills owed to vendors stood at $8.5 billion — and had reached $9 billion by last January, he said.
Although meant to help the state reduce its huge backlog of unpaid bills, the income tax increase “was a disaster” because legislators didn’t address the underlying fiscal problems facing the state, Rutherford said.
“We can’t keep doing what we’re doing,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who was in the audience for Rutherford’s remarks, said after his talk that a “comprehensive financial plan” needs to be crafted to address Illinois’ fiscal issues and that resolving them “is not going to be an overnight fix.”
Dismissing the income tax hike as among a host of Democrats’ “short-term fixes that haven’t worked,” Radogno said other revenue sources need to be explored, such as extending the sales tax to services, which has been done in other states.