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Illinois Senate OKs Treasurer-Comptroller Merger

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Illinois State Senate

Illinois State Senate chambers (CBS File Photo)

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UPDATED 04/01/11 9:39 a.m.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois senators have signed off on a proposal to allow voters to decide if the state should combine the two offices that handle state finances.

The Illinois Senate voted 55-0 Thursday in favor of a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the Illinois Treasurer’s and Comptroller’s offices and create a single office of Comptroller of the Treasury.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Alex Degman reports

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka both have voiced their support for merging their offices. Supporters have estimated it would save the state $12 million a year.

“This is common sense. If we can improve operations and save taxpayers more than $12 million annually by consolidating these offices, we should absolutely do it,” Rutherford said in a written statement on Thursday. “We need to scrutinize every dollar spent in this state.”

Currently, the comptroller’s office is responsible for paying the state’s bills, while the treasurer’s office is responsible for investing state funds.

The measure was sent to the Illinois House on Thursday for consideration. If the House also approves the resolution, voters would get the final say on the proposal at the 2012 general election.

But does enough of the electorate know the difference between a treasurer and a comptroller to make a decision?

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says voters don’t have to.

“I think you do a very simple, one sentence – two state offices combined into one, period,” Rutherford said. “Pretty simple.”

If voters approve the merger, the Treasurer’s office and Comptroller’s office would be eliminated after Rutherford’s and Topinka’s terms expire at the end of 2014, when voters would elect a new Comptroller of the Treasury to start in 2015.

Neither Rutherford nor Topinka has said if they would run for the new office if the merger goes through.

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