State Chamber gives Cross nod over Frerichs
CHAMPAIGN — In its first-ever endorsement in the race for state treasurer, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce is supporting Republican Tom Cross of Oswego over Champaign Democrat Mike Frerichs.
The reason: Frerichs' voting record, including his support for tax increase proposals.
"When you're looking at the extension of the income tax, if you're looking at support for a service tax, a progressive income tax, along with a number of other issues there's just a real stark difference between the two candidates and where they see the state heading and what they're going to voice their support for, if they become the next treasurer," said Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the state chamber.
Frerichs, a state senator, voted for the 67 percent, temporary income tax increase in 2011 and has sponsored legislation to institute a progressive income tax in the state. He also voiced support in a radio interview this summer for a tax on services, according to the Cross campaign.
"We know Senator Frerichs well. We like him. He is a very good legislator and conscientious, but when you look at his position on the key issues, especially as it relates to taxation, there's just night and day between Tom Cross and Senator Frerichs," Maisch said at a news conference in Champaign.
Cross, a state representative and the former leader of the Illinois House Republicans, Thursday renewed his pledge as treasurer to prepare a quarterly report on the state's financial condition, to establish a government integrity unit in his office and to require the Legislature to pass a balanced budget. If it doesn't, he said he would file a lawsuit.
"We're in unprecedented times. We've seen from a financial standpoint a state that's close to collapse and I think we need to use these offices in nontraditional ways," Cross said.
He said he wouldn't hesitate to file suit if a Republican Legislature passed or a Republican governor signed a budget that was out of balance. He declined to comment on whether he thought Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's budget proposal was balanced.
And he had few details on his government integrity unit, such as how much it would cost, who would staff it and what kind of qualifications the staff members would need.
"It would be within our budget," he said.
Maisch said the chamber of commerce hasn't endorsed in any other statewide races but that "I would anticipate that there will be other endorsements that we announce."
He said the governor's race "is under consideration," and noted that the group has announced its support for three Republican congressional contenders in Illinois, including Rep. Rodney Davis in the 13th Congressional District.
Maisch said the endorsement was made in the treasurer's race without interviewing the candidate or asking them to fill out questionnaires.
"We think somebody's record over a period of years is a lot better basis than a questionnaire that frankly the staff usually fills out," he said. "When you're running on a tax increase proposal, a new service tax, a progressive income tax as well as a voting record that we've had ... again Senator Frerichs is a conscientious legislator. I can't say anything against him, he cares about his community, but when you look at ideologies it was just a really clear choice."
The Frerichs campaign dismissed the endorsement.
"The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is part of a group of business interests that are working against raising the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 in Illinois," said Frerichs campaign manager Zach Koutsky. "Rep. Cross has not voted to raise the minimum wage three times in his 20-year Springfield career. If Rep. Cross had his way the minimum wage in Illinois would still be $5.15 as it was in 2003 when he first voted against raising it."
Cross said Thursday that a minimum wage increase should be considered in conjunction with other issues such as workers compensation reforms.