Democrat Michael W. Frerichs is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the Illinois treasurer race.
On Sept. 6, Frerichs appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why he’s running for re-election as Illinois treasurer in the 2018 general election.
The Sun-Times also sent the candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Frerichs submitted the following responses:
What would be your top three priorities as treasurer?
Frerichs: We have accomplished a lot of great things during my tenure as State Treasurer. It is my mission to improve upon the successes of the past 4 years and ensure my office is increasing transparency, maximizing returns on investments and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars.
One example that I am proud of and continue to work towards is the Secure Choice college savings programs. During my tenure we have cut fees for college savings plans in half and continue to set records on unclaimed property returned. It is my mission to improve upon the successes of the past 4 years and ensure my office is being a good steward of taxpayer dollars.
It is also a priority to continue widening the circle of opportunity. When I took office in 2015 less than one-percent (1%) of Treasurer’s Office investment assets were brokered by minority, women, veteran, or disabled (MWVD) firms. My office aggressively sought out these smaller MWVD broker/dealers and encouraged them to compete for the business of the Treasurer’s Office. Within two years nearly 63% of Treasurer’s Office investment assets were being brokered by MWVD firms.
Who is Mike Frerichs?
His political/civic background:
- Elected to Champaign County Board in 2000
- Became Champaign County Auditor in 2002.
- In 2007, sworn in as State Senator of the 52nd District.
- In 2015, sworn in as Illinois State Treasurer
His occupation: State Treasurer of Illinois
- Rantoul Township High School 1991
- Yale, graduated in 1995
Campaign website: frerichsforillinois.com
Do you support a constitutional amendment to merge the state offices of treasurer and comptroller? Please explain.
Frerichs: Yes. As evidence, when I was a State Senator I voted in favor of legislation to put this question on the ballot to let voters decide.
Should the state take into consideration issues of “social responsibility” when investing funds? Would it be appropriate, for example, to prohibit or limit the investment of state pension funds in certain companies that make guns and ammunition? Please explain.
Frerichs: Investing means making choices. That’s why we’re promoting an investment philosophy that fuses traditional investment objectives – optimal risk-adjusted returns, low expenses, and diversification – with a focus on sustainability, risk management, and corporate responsibility. This allows us to not only position ourselves to protect shareholder value and maximize returns, but also help foster a business culture that is more attentive to structural trends, societal impacts, and long-term growth. And that benefits all Illinoisans.
To fulfill our investment duties and maximize returns on investments, we need to focus on more than just short-term gains and traditional indicators. When it comes to our decision making process, additional risk and value-added factors that may have a material and relevant financial impact on the safety and performance of our investments need to be considered. These material sustainability factors include (1) environmental factors (e.g. impact of carbon emissions); (2) social capital factors (e.g. human rights); (3) human capital factors (e.g. fair labor practices, diversity & inclusion); (4) business model and innovation factors (e.g. product quality and safety); and (5) leadership and governance factors (e.g. executive compensation, business ethics).
The old adage stands firm: actions speak louder than words. Thus I utilize multifaceted efforts including direct engagement with corporate decision-makers, voting by proxy, weighing in on public policymaking, evaluating fund managers and portfolio companies by sustainability factors, working in coalition with other institutional investors, and various other measures. This has been instrumental in successfully engaging pharmaceutical companies such as Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen on the opioid epidemic, Wells Fargo on consumer fraud and board accountability, Wal-Mart on human capital issues, Kaiser Aluminum on sustainability impacts and FCB Financial on advancing board diversity & inclusion.
Similarly, the State has the ability to promote economic impact while investing its capital. For example, Illinois has begun to reap the rewards of the Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund. As a result, we have helped support the creation of an estimated 2,000 technology-related jobs in Illinois since 2016 and attracted over $800 million in private capital, all while generating positive investment returns for the State. My philosophy also extends to widening the circle of opportunity. When I took office in 2015 less than one-percent (1%) of Treasurer’s Office investment assets were brokered by minority, women, veteran, or disabled (MWVD) firms. My office aggressively sought out these smaller MWVD broker/dealers and encouraged them to compete for the business of the Treasurer’s Office. I am proud to say that within two years nearly 63% of Treasurer’s Office investment assets were being brokered by MWVD firms.
When is it appropriate for the treasurer to take public positions on legislation before the General Assembly?
Frerichs: My office has backed several important pieces of legislation in the General Assembly that has shown how the treasury can help Illinois residents. For example, my office has pushed for legislation that has helped widows and orphans receive their promised benefits from life insurance companies, fought for ways to reduce Wall Street fees on college savings programs, found ways to reduce the percentage we pay on our debt to save taxpayer dollars, and many other instances which improve upon the long-term fiscal health of our state.
Do you support a graduated income tax? Why or why not?
Frerichs: Yes, I sponsored a Fair Tax as a State Senator.
There is a push in Illinois to legalize marijuana, in part to increase state revenue. What is your view on that?
Frerichs: Let the voters decide. However, I want to underscore the work I have done on this issue to date. As the state’s Chief Banking Officer, I’ve ensured that the banks and financial institutions whom work for the Treasury are willing and able to collect and deposit state mandated cannabis fees and use taxes from individuals, dispensaries, and cultivators. Much to chagrin of our financial institutions, we tied the processing of these cannabis banking activities to our other banking transactions, to ensure minimal conflict.
Furthermore, we’ve also hosted industry roundtables to learn, facilitate, and craft solutions to issues facing the medical cannabis industry. Similarly, we’ve also led advocacy efforts alongside other 13 states, to support a change in federal banking laws that inherently prohibit financial institutions from providing banking services to legitimate businesses. This has included efforts directed at President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Lastly, we plan to launch a program that helps minimize the financial burden faced by banks when catering to this industry. We hope this facilitates the entry of new banking service providers which would undoubtedly increase competition, but also minimize fraud and prospective criminal activities associated with cash businesses.
What are the biggest differences, as the potential treasurer, between you and your opponents?
Frerichs: My opponent has been talking about the differences in political parties. I am talking about – and have been for the past 3 1/2 years – how the Treasurer’s office can help all Illinois residents. We do so by providing tools to help people invest in themselves. Tools such as ABLE investing for families that have children with disabilities, College Savings programs, Secure Choice retirement, and more.
Have you accepted, or will you accept in the future, campaign donations from current or potential vendors, suppliers or contractors?
Frerichs: I do not accept money from vendors that work with our office. Further, prohibiting employees from contributing to my campaign was among my first actions upon taking office. It sends a clear message that work product, not money, is the benchmark for success. I then assembled a team of smart, dedicated professionals to run the office.
What experience has best prepared you to be treasurer?
Frerichs: As a Certified Public Finance Officer that grew up in a small farming community, I understand the importance of investing in communities of all sizes. As a State Senator I learned the value of working across the aisle to bring about common sense reforms. I also spearheaded efforts to reduce disparities in education funding across Illinois, a cause that I have continued to champion in the Treasurer’s office through the now top-rated Bright Start and Bright Directors college savings programs.
What else should voters know about you?
Frerichs: I grew up in a small farming community of 800 people, in Gifford, Illinois.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.
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