Incumbent Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza and her Republican challenger, Darlene Senger, differ on many policy positions – including whether the office they’re running for should be combined with the state treasurer’s office.
Mendoza, who previously served as state representative of the 1st District and city clerk of Chicago, disagrees with the comptroller-treasurer merger due to the risk of corruption arising from one official maintaining the state’s checkbook as well as making its investments.
“The framers of the state constitution were familiar with the potential for corruption in having one officer in charge of receiving money, investing it and paying it out,” Mendoza wrote in her candidate questionnaire for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Senger, who previously served as a state representative in Illinois’ 41st District, believes the offices should be merged in order to save taxpayer money and consolidate responsibilities between the state’s top financial positions.
As the top priority in the candidate statement she submitted to Chicago Tonight, Senger listed posing the question of a constitutional amendment to voters.
“This will save millions of dollars and improve efficiencies,” Senger wrote.
Also running for comptroller is Libertarian candidate Claire Ball, a CPA and accountant for a Chicago charter school network. Ball unsuccessfully ran for Illinois comptroller in the 2016 special election.
As keeper of the state’s checkbook, the comptroller’s job is an especially important one in these cash-strapped times: Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills exceeds $8 billion, while its staggering debt of unfunded pension liabilities stands at more than $130 billion.
On the campaign trail, Mendoza has touted her initiative the Debt Transparency Act, which requires state agencies to report unpaid bills to the comptroller’s office every month.
In listing her qualifications, Senger, who lost to U.S. Rep. Bill Foster in the 2014 election for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District, underscores her private sector financial experience as an investment advisor and manager of financial analysts.
Mendoza supports a progressive income tax system and raising the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour, while Senger argues the minimum wage hike could curtail entry-level job growth throughout Illinois.
Senger is also against adopting a progressive income tax system, which would tax residents based on income level, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that Illinois’ flat tax “is the fairest and most predictable system for the taxpayers to understand.”
One subject Mendoza has been rather noncommittal about is whether she’ll run for mayor of Chicago. Earlier this month, supporters led by former U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairman Marty Castro were passing out mayoral petitions for Mendoza at the Women’s March to the Polls.
Mendoza has said she’s “flattered” by the effort but focusing on her comptroller campaign, while also not committing to a full term as comptroller.
The comptroller will have to make up her mind within a month – Mendoza has 20 days after Election Day to gather and submit the 12,500 signatures required to run for mayor.
Mendoza and Senger join us as part of our candidate forum series.
Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia