Sheila Simon, Candidate for Illinois Comptroller

Candidate Full Name: Sheila Simon

Office: Illinois Comptroller

Party: Democrat

Email Address:

Web Site:

Campaign Name: Sheila Simon for Illinois

Campaign Office Mailing Address: 29 S. LaSalle Ave. Suite 936, Chicago, IL 60603

Phone: 312-629-8210

Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)

1. Please tell us about yourself, your background and why you believe you are qualified to hold this office?

I am not a career politician. I am a former legal aid attorney, prosecutor and law professor - and I continue to be a government reformer.

In 2009, I was recruited to state politics during a time of crisis to serve on the Illinois Reform Commission, and I helped write the blueprint for transparency and accountability in state government. I put many of those reforms into action as the Lt. Governor when I prohibited campaign contributions from state employees, instituted a "no free lunch" executive order that barred my staff from accepting freebies from lobbyists and released personal financial statements on myself and my senior staff. I will continue to follow these high ethical standards as an independent and proactive Comptroller.

My qualifications go beyond state politics. My legal background will help the office properly interpret and improve existing laws regarding state finances. My experience as a Carbondale City Council member provides first-hand knowledge on how the Comptroller's office should help local officials manage multi-million dollar budgets. And above all, my mentor, former Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, said my experience as a teacher would be invaluable as I seek to engage and educate the public on state finances.

Given our state's history of corruption, we also need leaders like myself who oppose pension padding and resist patronage hiring. My opponent voted for pension perks that will allow her to retire with a pension higher than her final salary. She also admitted earlier this year (after being caught on a live microphone) that she asked the Governor to help her son get a job. It's time for new, honest leadership.

2. As the state's chief accountant, what is the most important part of holding this office?

The Comptroller pays the state's bills and is in the best position to scrutinize spending. I will be an aggressive fiscal watchdog who is focused on not just accounting, but accountability.

One of my top priorities is to cut clout out of the bill payment process. The Comptroller's office decides when to pay the bills and who gets their payments expedited. There is no record of how or why these decisions are made, leaving voters and journalists in the dark when deciding whether the Comptroller is making the right decisions, free of any conflict of interest. I would issue a regular report on expedited payments and the rationale behind moving certain bills to the front of the line. The bill payment process should be fair and transparent, and the Comptroller held accountable for her decisions.

Likewise, the Comptroller should help taxpayers hold their local governments accountable. Thousands of units of local government are required to turn in annual financial audits and reports to the Comptroller's office, but some governments do not turn in these reports on time or at all. Some of these governments - such as Harvey and Washington Park - are dealing with serious corruption scandals and financial mismanagement that might have been prevented if the Comptroller exercised its authority to collect the data or to conduct audits of its own. The Comptroller should also benchmark the data and return it to municipalities and taxpayers so they can compare their governments against a statewide standard.

3. If elected comptroller, what programs would you put in place to make the state more financially transparent?

Right now, the Comptroller has the power to pick winners and losers in expedited state payments, but has zero accountability. The Associated Press had to file Freedom of Information Act requests back in 2011 to figure out who was asking and receiving the payments, and found that clout played a role in getting paid first. My opponent admitted then that the system isn't fair, but hasn't done anything to change it or make it more transparent. I would set and publish objective standards for expedited payments and issue a regular online report on what bills are being moved to the front of the line.

The public also deserves to know more about the third-party companies that are buying vendors' bills and pocketing millions of dollars in prompt payment interest penalties. Vendors seeking expedited payments are referred to these politically connected companies, but no where online can you see what they are holding or how much money they are earning. Just like with expedited payments, the public deserves to know who is benefiting from being pushed to the end of the bill payment line!

Finally, the Comptroller maintains a statewide employee database that includes names, job titles, and earnings, but it doesn't indicate if the employees are categorized as exempt from hiring rules. One way to combat patronage hiring is to shine a light on these politically appointed positions. I would work to indicate personnel status online.

4. If elected, what is the first thing you would do after taking office?
On Day One, I will implement ethics rules that prohibit campaign contributions from my staff because there is no place for "pay-to-play" or "pay-to-stay" in my office. With my intolerance for patronage clear, I will conduct an internal audit to determine where cuts can be made, duplicative services eliminated and efficiencies realized. (My first target is the consumer affairs division of the Comptroller's office. Illinois cannot afford financial educators in the Comptroller, Treasurer and Attorney General's offices. And the Comptroller's Critters project, while a noble endeavor, is far outside the mission of the office.) I will work with the incoming Treasurer to eliminate areas of redundancy between the two offices through intergovernmental agreements. We don't need to wait for a constitutional amendment to pass, we can save taxpayer dollars immediately.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon

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