Editorials

ENDORSEMENT: Michael W. Frerichs for Illinois treasurer

Illinois’ finances are a disaster, as everybody knows, but, thanks to state Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs, we have a little bit of good news to share: 

Returns on state investments have soared in the last four years.  

Some of that increase is due simply to higher interest, as Frerichs pointed out during a meeting with the Sun-Times editorial board. But some of the increase is due, as well, to specific action Frerichs took. He sought and received permission from the Legislature to expand Illinois’ investment portfolio.

Under Frerichs, investment earnings for the state investment portfolio rose from $4 million per month to $22 million per month, an increase of approximately 450 percent.

Frerichs also has done a commendable job of helping people in Illinois save for college and retirement. He completed an overhaul of Illinois’ college savings program last year and lowered fees. The changes earned rave reviews from investment analysts. Morningstar called the program “topnotch.”

In his first term in office, Frerichs initiated an effort with 13 other states to allow people with disabilities to open tax-free savings accounts for expenses related to their disabilities, including housing and education. He also rolled out Illinois Secure Choice, a voluntary program for people who need a way to put aside some money from their paychecks for retirement when their employers don’t offer a pension or 401k.  

These are important reforms for regular folks just trying to invest in their futures and their kids’ futures.

In an interview, Republican Jim Dodge accused the treasurer of engaging in political theater. He was critical of Frerichs for calling out Facebook for poor management decisions earlier this year and for saying that Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, should step aside. Elected leaders in other states also were piling on Facebook at the time.

The state isn’t an investor in Facebook, Dodge pointed out, so how was this any of Frerich’s business? But, Frerichs replied, Illinois residents who enroll in the college savings program may be investors in Facebook, so he was standing up for them.

Frerichs, a Democrat, is the clear choice in this race. We endorse him over Dodge and Libertarian Mike Leheney.

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PolitiFact is an exclusive partnership between Chicago Sun-Times and BGA to fact-check politicians

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.