Bright Start major issue in treasurer race

October 26, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Tough economic times in Illinois are putting the public's focus on how the state manages its cash. The race to replace current State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias who is running for U.S. Senate is heating up.

Democrat candidate Robin Kelly is the chief of staff for outgoing treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

"I am an honest, ethical leader with a proven track record of cutting waste, creating jobs, helping small business, I know that office, I know we've done a great job in running that office," said Robin Kelly.

Kelly says her experience will help the state invest in small businesses and create jobs. Her Republican opponent State Senator Dan Rutherford says he'd focus on cutting excessive spending in the office-- with a performance audit.

"If there's things that are duplicated in other areas of state government, I'm going to eliminate them, if there's things that we can do better and more efficiently, we're going to do that," said Dan Rutherford.

A major issue in the treasurer's race is the office's management of Bright Start, a college savings program that lost $150 million. Rutherford blames Kelly because of her role in the current treasurer's administration.

"If there's a trend line like took place in the core fund, I'm going to pull the fire alarm a heck of a lot earlier than they did," said Rutherford.

Kelly says the office recovered half the losses in a court settlement and has improved the fund.

"It's been politicized unfairly all throughout the campaign," said Kelly. "We brought that program from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best."

Libertarian candidate James Pauly says the state should not be in the business of running a college savings program. He says if elected he'd most likely end Bright Start and return the money to parents.

"Where we've been getting into trouble is where these departments veer outside of those actual constitutional mandates," said James Pauly.

Green Party candidate Scott Summers says as treasurer he'd advocate for jobs and fiscal responsibility while changing the way programs like Bright Start are run.

"If we joined three or four or five different states we could consolidate the programs, save a little bit of money and basically concentrate the management expertise," said Scott Summers.

Another major sticking point between Democratic candidate Robin Kelly and Republican Dan Futherford is the opening of satellite treasurer's offices around the state during the Giannoulias administration. Kelly says the offices save the state money -- but Rutherford says they're an example of government waste and he'd close them immediately

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