In the middle of a 3-day tour announcing her re-election campaign, Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka told Springfield-area supporters last week that she wants their help to continue a fight for “efficiency and accountability and transparency.”
“I really love it that you stand with me as we push for common sense,” Topinka told about 100 people in the parking lot of the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center. “If there ever was a time to make Illinois more accountable, this is it.”
Topinka spoke on a riser in front of her campaign bus, dubbed the “common sense express.” Former Gov. Jim Edgar was among officials on stage, and said he can’t think of anyone better to hold the office of “fiscal watchdog.”
With a Democratic governor and Legislature who “have a little trouble balancing a checkbook,” Edgar said, “it’s very important who the comptroller is.” He said Topinka is just the “common sense Republican” needed in the office, which pays the state’s bills.
Topinka, 69, of Riverside, a former state lawmaker and state treasurer, was elected comptroller in 2010, 4 years after being the GOP nominee for governor.
“I’m only sorry I couldn’t take out Blagojevich for you,” she told the crowd, referring to former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who won re-election in 2006 before being impeached and imprisoned.
In her speech, Topinka touted her efforts to block $3 billion in borrowing that some wanted to do.
“I’m saying to Democrats, to independents, and any Republicans who may be so moved: don’t borrow any more,” Topinka said. “Just stop it. Stop it right now.”
She said her office has quit sending out payments of $5 or less unless by request; is moving toward a paperless operation; has pushed for cities to comply with requirements to file reports of their finances; and provides more information to the public via an online financial database.
She also said her office has encouraged more small businesses to bid for state work, and has increased efforts to recover debts owed the state.
With Illinois facing more than $7.5 billion in unpaid bills, Topinka also said her office gives nonprofits who “take care of the old, the sick, the lame, the handicapped” priority.
“We pay them first, and everybody else kind of has to wait a little bit longer,” Topinka said. “But I think it’s a good thing that we do that.”
Topinka said it’s not just in front of state employees – as many of her employees were at the 5:30 p.m. event – that she defends state workers even as she knows the current pension system is “unsustainable.”
Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is also running for comptroller, setting up a likely matchup of well-known names next fall.
“Of course I’m going to beat Sheila,” Topinka told reporters. “I play a mean accordion, that’s why. She plays a good banjo, but I’m louder.”
Topinka’s eight-city tour began in Chicago and ended in Marion.