Governor Summers: Candidate Profile
1st Appellate District (Green)
Back to 1st Appellate District
Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Family: Wife and two sons
Occupation: Attorney; public guardian and public administrator of McHenry County
Education: Northern Illinois University College of Law: J.D. Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management: MBA University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign: BA
Civic involvement: Scout leader; adult literacy volunteer; author of two books published by the American Bar Association.
Elected offices held: Public Guardian and Public Administrator of McHenry County, 2013-present Elected trustee, McHenry County College, 2005-2009 Member, Board of Visitors, NIU College of Law, 1997-2004 Treasurer and board member, Harvard Community Memorial Hospital, 1980-1982 Member, McHenry County Welfare Services Committee, 1982-1984 Treasurer and board member, Hospice for McHenry County, 1983-84
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Regarding the governor's role as chief executive officer of the state, what do you consider the key to an effective working relationship between the governor's office and legislative leaders? To what extent is this relationship effective now and to whatever extent it may not be effective, what would you do to improve it?
Let's be frank. Because I have scant political support, we will have tumultuous times in Springfield. In order to mitigate this, members of the General Assembly and I will need to be pragmatic. To this end, I will enlist retired (and widely respected) representatives and senators as "ambassadors" to facilitate my work with leaders and legislators alike. Compromise is, of course, the art of politics. And all parties -- including me -- must compromise on policy issues in order to obtain desired overall results. Politicians of all persuasions will quickly find that I am an honest and reliable negotiator. I shall be cordial. But I'll also drive hard bargains.
If the Supreme Court, strikes down the SB 1 pension reform, what is your Plan B and how will you work with the General Assembly to pass it?
The need to bring state pensions up to prescribed funding levels now has become dire. Under a Plan B, we will have little choice but to levy additional taxes. However, we must steer away from regressive taxes (e.g., sales and utility taxes.) Rather than boost income taxes even more, I suggest bridge funding via two new levies. The first is a financial transactions tax of 1/100 of 1% -- just $1 on a $10,000 trade -- on stocks, bonds, commodities, options, etc. I also propose extraction taxes on coal, stone, gravel, and sand. (We already have the on oil and timber.) Once the pensions are back on sound actuarial footing, I would like to sunset the financial transactions tax. I would keep the extraction levies. These taxes will be extremely difficult to pass. I will, of course, be open to alternatives and adjustments that the General Assembly may suggest.
As it stands now, the 2011 income tax increase will expire as planned on Jan. 1. Do you think that expiration should be reconsidered? Would you support making the increase permanent or extending it for some period of time? Please be specific about what level of tax increase, if any, you would support.
First of all, the income tax increase will not expire on January 1st: rather, it will scale back to 3.75%. Decades of monumental mismanagement by Republicans and Democrats alike leave us with little choice but to extend the 5% level for three to five more years. I most emphatically wish this were not so. But we must. We will, of course, make every effort to cut costs and economize as part of the overall package that will return us to fiscal health. But we cannot cut our pension obligations. And we can't cut the billions in outstanding bills for services already rendered. The money has to come from somewhere. Looking long term, I favor a state constitutional amendment that would move the state income tax from a flat rate basis to a graduated one, similar to that of the federal government. This too will be very difficult to pass.
Do you support cuts in state spending? If so, what specifically do you suggest cutting and how will those cuts be sufficient to restore the state's financial health and economic climate?
Rather than cut solely on the basis of proportions and percentages, we must instead evaluate and rechannel both infrastructure and service programs. Voters will recall the base-closing commissions that scaled back military facilities throughout the country. We need the same for Illinois. Do we require all of the bricks and mortar at our public universities? With leveling student populations and the advent of internet and distance learning, I think not. Perhaps the time has come to mothball one or more of them. In a fashion similar to the base closings, I would work with the General Assembly to set up examining boards and commissions to evaluate these issues and recommend closures and/or cutbacks. In the style of Congress, the General Assembly would take up-or-down votes on the lists. Additionally, it's possible to cut costs AND improve service. Example: license plate stickers. Scanning technology now renders them obsolete.
What changes, if any, do you believe the state should make in the area of education? If lawmakers approved the so-called pension cost-shift to local schools, would you sign it or veto it?
If I were to assign a letter grade to educational funding in Illinois, I'd give it a D. Wildly disparate property tax levels and convoluted funding formulas have rendered education in our state as inherently unequal. I graduated from New Trier Township High School, where per-pupil expenditures now exceed $20,000 each year. In my home town of Harvard, approximately $7,000 is spent on each student. This is patently wrong. I would like to revive the idea of a tax swap (i.e., reduced property taxes, higher income taxes) in an effort to partially right this wrong. Article X of our state constitution provides that "the state shall have the primary responsibility for education." A 1970s court decision deemed this to be a goal, not a requirement. State support of education has ratcheted downward every year since. As for the pension cost-shift: yes, I would sign it, if graduated and phased in.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Rather than continue with top-down approaches to economic development, I advocate a bottoms-up method: microcapitalism. Through the use of small grants and revolving loan funds, along with volunteer mentoring programs (accountants, attorneys, executives), a network of business incubators, and designation of micro-enterprise zones (where locally produced goods can be sold with reduced sales taxes,) I intend to empower people and help them develop businesses in their homes and communities. Let us not forget that Mom-and-Pop businesses (I say that affectionately) and organizations with fewer than fifty employees are the backbone of our economy. I also intend to advocate tirelessly for the voiceless and forgotten: the sick, the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the veterans, the jobless, the elderly, and the children. And I will also stand up for the good hard-working people of Illinois who struggle every day to put food on the table and shoes on the kids.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Honesty is the best policy.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
Getting into politics at an earlier age.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
English literature. By turns, it inspired and shaped me.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Always be compassionate.