October 01, 2022
Election


Election

Michael Frerichs, Illinois Treasurer 2022 primary election questionnaire

Michael Frerichs

Full Name: Michael Frerichs

What office are you seeking? Illinois State Treasurer

What offices, if any, have you previously held? State Senator

Champaign County Auditor

Champaign County Board

City: Champaign

Occupation: Illinois State Treasurer

Education Rantoul High School, 1991

Yale University, BA 1995

Campaign Website www.friendsoffrerichs.com

What is the role of the Illinois treasurer?

In Illinois, the Treasurer is the state’s Chief Investment and Banking Officer. The office invests money on behalf of the state and local units of government. I believe in providing individuals with financial tools so that they can invest in themselves. The Treasurer’s office encourages savings plans for college and trade school, removes barriers to a secure retirement, and reunites Illinois residents with their unclaimed property.

Why should people vote for you?

Under my tenure, the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has earned more than $1 billion for taxpayers and been awarded the top AAA rating for the Illinois Funds investment pool. As the state’s Chief Investment Officer, I do more than make wise investments and protect taxpayer dollars, my office provides tools to help people invest in themselves. During my tenure, I have returned more than $1.3 billion back to Illinoisans through the I-Cash program, more than any other Treasurer in history. I have expanded access to higher education by improving the 529 College Savings Program to the top-rated program in the country, earning independent analyst Morningstar’s Gold rating five years in a row. I have expanded tools like the Secure Choice program which is helping over 100,000 workers save their own money to retire with dignity and the ABLE program which is helping families plan for loved ones with disabilities.

Should Illinois look at merging the comptroller and treasurer offices?

Yes. Mike Frerichs supports a constitutional amendment to merge the offices of the Comptroller and State Treasurer. As a State Senator, Mike Frerichs supported and, in 2011, voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to merge the offices of Comptroller and State Treasurer. As a candidate for State Treasurer in 2014 and 2018, Mike Frerichs supported merging the offices. In 2022 Mike Frerichs has supported HJRCA 12, sponsored by Republican State Representative Dan Ugaste, that would let voters decide whether to merge the offices.

What role, if any, should the treasurer play in promoting financial literacy?

Teaching financial literacy is primarily the role of parents and teachers. Under Mike Frerichs’ leadership, the State Treasurer’s office has developed and provided free tools for teachers and parents through the Money Minded Illinois curriculum. And, through a grant from the bipartisan National Association of State Treasurers, the State Treasurers office provides the free Illinois Financial Wellness Hub for state employees and retirees.

Should Illinois look at merging the comptroller and treasurer offices?

Yes. Mike Frerichs supports a constitutional amendment to merge the offices of the Comptroller and State Treasurer. As a State Senator, Mike Frerichs supported and, in 2011 voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to merge the offices of Comptroller and State Treasurer. As a candidate for State Treasurer in 2014 and 2018, Mike Frerichs supported merging the offices. In 2022 Mike Frerichs has supported HJRCA 12, sponsored by Republican State Representative Dan Ugaste, that would let voters decide whether to merge the offices.

What is the treasurer’s role in maintaining Illinois’ fiscal integrity?

In Illinois, the State Treasurer is the state’s Chief Investment and Banking Officer. Under Mike Frerichs’ leadership, the investment approach is cautious to ensure the preservation of principle, and the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has earned more than $1 billion and been awarded the top AAA rating for the Illinois Funds investment pool. Every dollar earned by the State Treasurer is a dollar that does not have to be raised in taxes or cut from funding for essential services in your community.

Transparency is essential to fiscal integrity as State Treasurer Mike Frerichs has increased the transparency of state investments. Using the Vault Data Portal on the official illinoistreasurer.gov website, taxpayers can freely access a wealth of data on investment programs and banking activities.

What will be your top legislative priorities during your term, and why?

The federal government is expected to soon issue new guidance and regulations concerning cryptocurrency. As State Treasurer, I would work with the General Assembly to update state laws concerning cryptocurrency both as payments and as unclaimed property to better align with the federal guidance that will be issued. As part of the bipartisan National Association of State Treasurers (NAST), Mike Frerichs would continue to advocate for these changes to federal law:

Passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act would raise the age of disability onset from 26 to 46. This would give more Americans with disabilities the opportunity to use tax-advantaged savings accounts to help cover qualified disability expenses. The likelihood of a person having a disability only increases with age, leaving many who are above the age of 26 – including many veterans – in financial hardship. The National Disability Institute projects by expanding the age cap for ABLE accounts, over 6 million more people will have access to this entitlement and will provide millions of more people who are living with a disability an opportunity for financial security and improving their quality of life.

The Unclaimed Savings Bond Act would help reunite an estimated $24 billion in matured unredeemed savings bonds with their rightful owners or their heirs. An estimated $1 billion is owed to Illinois families. Passage of this law would authorize the states to expand their successful unclaimed property programs to include savings bonds, enabling Illinois bondholders to either cash or continue holding onto bonds that are rightfully theirs

How would you assess the Legislature’s and governor’s approaches to addressing the state’s finances the past 4 years? What more should be done?

More important than the opinion of the State Treasurer is the fact that all three major credit rating agencies (Moody’s Investors Services, Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings, and Fitch Ratings) have improved their ratings or outlooks because of Illinois’ improved finances for the first time in more than 20 years. This is independent confirmation that the decisions made by the Governor and General Assembly have put Illinois on a more solid fiscal footing.

The State of Illinois has eliminated the $16 billion backlog in bills accumulated under former Governor Rauner’s budgets. Just this past Spring, the Governor and General Assembly have paid off more than $4 billion in debt, voted to provide $1.8 billion in direct tax relief to Illinois families and put aside $1 billion into a rainy-day fund. The past four budgets have been balanced, have increased state funding for K-12 education, have awarded more college scholarships to Illinois students, and have provided hundreds of millions of new dollars to state and local public safety agencies.

The Governor and General Assembly even passed bipartisan legislation to rebuild and modernize the state’s roads, bridges, waterways, ports, public transportation, and other key infrastructure. As State Treasurer, Mike Frerichs will continue to support paying down state debt, making investments in our future, and providing targeted tax relief to working and middle-class families in Illinois.

The Illinois treasurer’s office controls unclaimed property from throughout the state. Does the office adequately inform residents of their unclaimed property? Would you change how the office handles unclaimed property and if so how?

Mike Frerichs is always eager to find new and innovative ways to return unclaimed property to Illinoisans. Under Mike Frerichs’ leadership, the State Treasurer’s office has returned over $1.3 billion, more than any other Treasurer in Illinois history, and has tripled the number of claims approved each year to over 170,000. This is possible because of improvements to Illinois’ unclaimed property law and systems:

* Online Claims and E-Claiming - updated rules to allow most claims to be filed online and enable uploading any required documentation instead of printing and mailing paper forms. 4

* FAST TRACK Claims - for simple online claims, an automated review verifies if the claimant is the owner and pays out without any additional requests for information. Since being introduced, over 300,000 claims have been approved through FAST TRACK totaling over $31 million.

* Money Match - comparing unclaimed property records with other state databases to identify taxpayers with an unclaimed property under $2,000 and mailing a check to the owner without requiring a claim to be filed. Since 2018 over 130,000 claims have returned approximately $14 million to Illinois taxpayers through Money Match.

* Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act – changed state law (over a veto by former Governor Rauner) to require life insurance companies to notify beneficiaries of unclaimed life insurance benefits after their loved one passes away. Auditors working for the Treasurer have identified over $800 million in unpaid life insurance benefits owed to Illinois beneficiaries (over $500 million of which was paid directly to beneficiaries without becoming unclaimed property).

* Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) - replaced a law that was passed in 1961 with a modern law that uses email, searchable websites, social media, and direct mail to notify Illinoisans when they are owed unclaimed property.

* Modernized Unclaimed Property Computer System - through a competitive procurement, replaced an antiquated computer system with a modern system with more accurate records, audit trails, and fraud detection. These innovations have earned the Illinois Treasurer’s office national awards from the National Unclaimed Property Administrators and the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization