Illinois Comptroller Forum

Republican Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Democratic challenger Sheila Simon participate in Chicago Tonight’s forum. View career timelines for the candidates, and read an article about the difference between the Office of Comptroller and State Treasurer.


--Timelines by Travis Cornejo

For those Illinois residents who are unclear about the role of comptroller, and how it compares with state treasurer, the confusion is understandable. There was talk of merging the two offices a couple of years ago. In 2011, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka were both in favor of merging the offices, and said doing so could save $12 million a year.

Bradley C. Hahn, director of communications for the Illinois Comptroller’s Office, broke down the major differences between the two positionsHahn said the treasurer’s office makes the investments for the state and manages the state’s portfolio, while the comptroller’s office is in charge of all state payments.

“So every check that is processed, every payment that is made by the state all goes through the comptroller’s office,” said Hahn. “The comptroller’s office is the bill-paying place and the treasurer’s office makes the investments.”

Below are the official explanations of each position:

Role of Illinois State Treasurer:

In the United States, a state’s treasurer serves as the state’s head banker.

According to the Illinois Constitution (section 18), the treasurer shall be responsible for the safekeeping and investment of monies and securities deposited with him, and for their disbursement upon order of the Comptroller. The current Illinois State Treasurer is Dan Rutherford, who is responsible for investing more than $15 billion in taxpayer dollars. Rutherford was elected in November 2010, after serving 18 years in the Illinois General Assembly and maintaining a career in the private sector as a successful executive. The Illinois State Treasurer’s website says the primary role of the treasurer is to wisely invest taxpayers’ money for the maximum return.

Role of Illinois Comptroller:

Different than a state treasurer, a state’s comptroller is considered the state’s Chief Fiscal Officer.

The description of the comptroller in the Illinois State Constitution (section 17)says that the comptroller shall maintain the state's central fiscal accounts, and order payments into and out of the funds held by the Treasurer. The current comptroller in Illinois is Judy Baar Topinka, who served as the Illinois State Treasurer from 1994 to 2007. She was sworn in as Illinois State Comptroller in January, 2011. The website of the Illinois Office of the Comptroller says the comptroller is responsible for managing government finances, paying the state’s bills, and watching over public dollars.

“That role brings the added responsibility of ensuring that all financial information is not only available, but readily accessible to taxpayers,” the site says.

--Hope Holmberg contributed to this report