Illinois Treasurer Republican nominee: Jim Dodge
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
On Sept. 6, Republican Jim Dodge appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why he’s running for Illinois treasurer in the 2018 general election.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also sent the nominees for Illinois Treasurer a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state. Dodge submitted the following answers to our questionnaire.
What would be your top three priorities as treasurer?
1) Consolidate the office with Comptroller to save money. Let’s trust the voters with a simple, binding ballot question: consolidate to save or keep things the way they are? I am fully aware you can’t save Illinois from the current fiscal mess with savings of $12M per year, but it’s a start. I trust the taxpayers to make better decisions than the legislature, once someone speaks the truth.
2) Make your money work harder. Right now we have $14B in investable funds that makes roughly 2%. We have $7B in unpaid bills that costs up to 12% in penalty interest. That is ridiculous; no one runs a family or business like this. Let’s use that money to pay down some bills. Further, we need to make sure that every penny the state has of our money is making the most that it can, every day, while keeping it safe. We have too many special purpose funds, we have too much portfolio churn, we have too much focus on politics first not performance. When it comes to unclaimed property, we can do more. Wisconsin automatically returns your money, up to $2000, and they do the work instead of people having to ask the elected Treasurer to return what is rightfully theirs. Why is that Illinois can find you when you owe them money, but not the other way around?
3) True transparency and being the voice of the taxpayer. The information that various offices like Treasurer and Comptroller release are inferior to what other states release. Not only will I do a better job of showing you how your money is working, I’ll tell you exactly how much it costs to run all of the branches of government and provide you with simple but accurate numbers on how much past promises will cost (like public pensions) and how much future promises will cost, if you do the financial math right. The taxpayers need a forceful advocate; the special interests already have theirs. Then you have to do your part and vote once you know the truth.
Who is Jim Dodge?
His political/civic background: Trustee, Village of Orland Park; Business Executive
His occupation: Advanced Analytics and Data Science Consultant
His education MBA, University of Chicago; DePaul University
Campaign website: jimdodge.com
Do you support a constitutional amendment to merge the state offices of treasurer and comptroller? Please explain.
Dodge: Yes. It will save money and it’s a clear signal to voters that state government has learned its lesson and can actually get smaller and better.
To be clear, the offices do different things, but those functions can be managed under one, separately elected constitutional officer. That is an important part of a check and balance system on both the governor and more importantly, the legislature, which actually controls the allocation of tax dollars.
Arguments about past cases of fraud should be dismissed. With the right data + process controls + technology, we can substantially reduce the risk of fraud and improve transparency. I have a strong business background in all three of those areas.
The time for this is now, no more meaningless gestures of it passing in the IL Senate, knowing full well that Madigan will not let it out of the IL House. To be direct, it’s clear Madigan doesn’t trust the voters and doesn’t want more transparency.
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.
On the first question:
Yes as an option for individuals, but it doesn’t matter to state funds directly managed by the Treasurer’s office. Let me explain.
The current policy for investing the state’s money is quite restrictive, as it should be. It focuses on safe, interest bearing investments, mostly in government bonds or time deposits in local banks. (Please note, that Illinois could not buy its own bonds if it wanted to because the credit quality is so poor.)
Social responsibility investing typically applies to investing in stocks. Illinois does not and cannot own stocks in its portfolio. The people of Illinois have the option to buy stocks through mutual funds in the college savings or retirement programs, but the office of Treasurer does not control those funds. Further there are no real options to follow this investment approach because the funds available to you don’t do this explicitly.
In short, all the talk about social responsibility investing from the current Treasurer is quite frankly political posturing. It is simply not an option for the state’s money and it is not readily available to you right now as a clear option for you the parent saving for your kid or for your retirement.
My goal for this office is simple: focus on performance, not politics.
On the second question:
Not unless you do three things. First, extend this list to all of the things that some people find objectionable. That might become a long list. Second, create a portfolio that excludes these investments and run the numbers in a simulation to see what the impact is on returns. Third, share the results with the public, get comments, then decide if the explicit cost/benefit of this investment approach is worth it. It may perform better, it may perform worse.
After we understand the full impact of a given investment approach, then make the decision.
When is it appropriate for the treasurer to take public positions on legislation before the General Assembly?
Dodge: Clearly, the Treasurer needs to be involved making a fact-based case for or against legislation that directly impacts the office.
Please note, I said fact-based. As an example, a recent issue came up about using unclaimed property funds to buy an office building specifically for the office of the Treasurer. The only information that has been released is an estimate of what it saves versus a lease. That’s only half the story. What are the true costs of owning a building we might not need, especially if we consolidate with Comptroller?
This office needs to focus on performance of the core duties – investing state moneys and unclaimed property – not expanding the office with programs to make the office more relevant to voters. There are many recent examples, well timed for the election cycle of expanded programs that create government competition to the private sector. I am in favor of improving the core functioning of the office. For example, my idea to develop a similar program to Wisconsin’s which returns your unclaimed property sooner.
Second, a key goal for the office is to get better information to voters on the true costs of government promises. Its up to the taxpayers to use that information to drive the legislative agenda when they vote.
Do you support a graduated income tax? Why or why not? *
No, absolutely not. We have 200 billion reasons to not trust the political class in Springfield with another new dime until we see reform and know that every penny is being spent wisely.
This is a fundamental difference between myself and my opponent. I believe that it is morally reprehensible to turn to voters and ask for more of their hard-earned money before we can guarantee them that the money they are currently sending to Springfield is being spent and invested in the most efficient and effective way possible.
My opponent doesn’t share this belief. Throughout his long career in politics he has had no problem asking voters for more tax dollars without any concern for how that money is spent.
There is a push in Illinois to legalize marijuana, in part to increase state revenue. What is your view on that?
Dodge: If the people of Illinois, choose to legalize marijuana that is a policy judgment call for them to make and I will defer to their decision. The private, legal use of marijuana doesn’t bother me. But I’d like to make sure we bring the full set of facts and considerations back into the discussion and think through all the social impacts. Example, how do we enforce DUI laws regarding marijuana?
As a candidate for Treasurer, I think the most relevant questions to the office I seek to hold are two-fold:
First, how do we resolve conflicts between state and federal law on the issue.
Second, how we handle the complex questions of how banks and other financial institutions involved in the legal sale or production of marijuana would be treated under the laws of Illinois and the laws of the US.
What are the biggest differences, as the potential treasurer, between you and your opponents?
Dodge: I want to do the job of Treasurer, not worry about my next political office. We need to get back to focusing on the core functions. It needs a professional to focus on performance, not politics.
I look to consolidate the office with Comptroller, maintain the existing programs but stop expanding programs that aren’t needed, improve investment returns on the portfolio and bring greater transparency.
I don’t support needlessly expanding government and I will raise my voice against unnecessary tax increases. Most importantly, I will tell the taxpayers the truth.
Illinois is a financial mess due to one reason: decades of bad financial decisions in Springfield. The political class simply didn’t do the math right when they adopted policies we can’t afford, then they denied the real costs because we would have voted them out years ago.
You make the ultimate decision in the voting booth, I’ll get you the facts.
Have you accepted, or will you accept in the future, campaign donations from current or potential vendors, suppliers or contractors?
Dodge: I will not take contributions from vendors, suppliers or contractors that do business with the Office of Treasurer.
What experience has best prepared you to be treasurer?
Dodge: It’s the unique combination of a long and successful career in business and years of elected experience in Orland Park.
I’m a numbers nerd and I use information to help people make better decisions, exactly what I’ll do in the Treasurer’s office. My entire 34-year business career has been about data, advanced analytics and using information technology to make things easier. I have an MBA from the University of Chicago in Finance and Economics and a US Patent.
In Orland Park, we have kept the property tax levy flat for seven years, returned millions in property tax rebates over the years, have a truly balanced budget, our bond rating is AA+. When the Great Recession hit, we took the hard decisions to bring expenditures back in line with revenues. We worked with all of our employees, including the union employees, to find a solution to get everyone through the storm. It was not the easiest time for everyone, but easy to understand what had to be done.
What else should voters know about you?
Dodge: I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago with five older sisters and union, Democrat parents. They didn’t make a lot of money working in factories, whether it was in the meat packing industry in Back of the Yards when they first met, or printing ink and paper products when they were older. I’m not and never have been “anti-union.”
I get what a steady income – of whatever size – means to a family. I get what its like to “not have much.” I also know my parents always wanted more for their kids, believed in the American Dream and pushed us to do our best. They helped me get my college education.
I come from humble roots, I care deeply about government doing its job well and in the most efficient way possible. When government gets too big, it gets lazy and it gets inefficient. It loses its way. Bad financial decisions in Springfield really do hurt the people that can least afford it. You’ll never hear that from the political class. But you will hear the truth from me.
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.