July 16, 2014

KITCHELL: One treasured office for Illinoisans

There must be something about Illinois people who want to run for Indiana state treasurer.

Julian Ridlen won two terms as state treasurer for the Republicans after he moved from Illinois to attend Anderson University.

Kelly Mitchell, who won two terms as a Cass County commissioner, hails from McHenry County, Ill. She is the current GOP nominee to succeed her boss, Richard Mourdock, who cannot seek a third term.

And then there’s Mike Boland, a former Illinois state representative and candidate for lieutenant governor who has moved to Fishers, Ind., to be near his grandchildren.

Boland, 71, ventured into Mitchell’s old stomping grounds Friday night at the Cass County 4-H Fair. While Indiana Democrats have not fared well in off-year statewide elections for the top offices in state government, Boland is part of a ticket that will draw some interest if for no other reason than an election anomaly. At the top is Marion County Clerk Beth White who is running for Secretary of State, and in the auditor’s slot is Mike Claytor, who wants to be the first CPA to serve as the state’s auditor. The unique thing about both of them is that they are running against appointed incumbents who have never run in statewide races before. Then there’s the Mitchell-Boland race for an open seat. The unusual thing about these three races is that there are no elected incumbents in any of them, and that means voters have little identification with them other than party identification.

But down the road in the next four years — if not the next eight if the winning candidate this year runs for a second term in 2018 — are three critical issues.

The first of these is local government financing. Recent changes in Indiana tax law have stripped local government of tax revenue, yet a report released this week is expected to indicate that Indiana state government has a hefty surplus. Local officials facing major capital projects might lobby for more funding flexibility from the state’s Revolving Loan Fund and the Indiana Bond Bank. Only $340 million of a state-limited $1 billion has been issued through one of the two programs, leaving potential to put Hoosiers to work and improve local infrastructure if the state will sign off on some major projects. One of the glaring needs facing locals is the replacement of coal-fired generating plants such as Logansport’s which will be virtually obsolete thanks to new federal guidelines. Signing off on a major project such as a power plant may require a state treasurer to cite a “moral obligation” by the state to fund it. With federal guidelines and state law putting the squeeze on local revenue, a case can probably made for a moral obligation to issue state bonds for new power plants.

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