Don Harmon: Candidate Profile

39th District Senate (Democratic)

  • Don Harmon, running for 39th District Senate

    Don Harmon, running for 39th District Senate

 
Updated 10/10/2014 3:54 PM

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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.

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BioQ&A

 

Bio

City: Oak Park

Website: harmonforillinois.com

Office sought:

39th District Senate

Age: 47

Family: Married to Teresa Harmon; proud father of three children, ages 13, 11 and 9; a lifelong Oak Parker and member of St. Giles Parish.

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Occupation: Lawyer

Education: The University of Chicago, The Law School, Chicago, Illinois. Juris Doctorate, with honors, 1994. The University of Chicago, The Graduate School of Business, Chicago, Illinois. Masters in Business Administration, in finance and accounting, 1994. Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, in English writing and economics, 1988. St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago, Illinois. Graduated with honors, 1984.

Civic involvement: Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.Trustee, 2013 to the present Trustee and National Alumni Council chair, 2000 to 2006. Alumni Council Member and Vice Chair, 1996 to 2006. Steckman Studio of Music, a not-for-profit corporation, Oak Park, Illinois. Board Member and Advisory Board Member, 1999 to 2009. Street-Level Youth Media, a not-for-profit corporation, Chicago, Illinois. Director and legal counsel, 1996 to 2002. The Community Chest of Oak Park and River Forest, Allocations Committee, 1998. Boys & Girls Club of Chicago Partners for Youth, June 1994 to December 1996. The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Member, 1996 - 2000.

Elected offices held: Democratic Party of Oak Park, Oak Park, Illinois. Committeeman, 2000 to the present.

Questions & Answers

How will you work to make the General Assembly function more productively and effectively? Wlll you vote to retain your party's current legislative leader? In what specific ways do you support changing how government in Springfield works?

I support the re-election of President Cullerton and look forward to remaining part of his leadership team. I was instrumental in developing the new Senate rules, which abolished the Rules Committee and established the Assignments Committee, which assigns almost all bills to substantive committees for hearings. We work collaboratively with our Republican colleagues whenever we can, and respectfully disagree when we cannot.

If the Supreme Court, strikes down the SB 1 pension reform, what is your Plan B and why do you think it would be both legal and effective?

We should resurrect the original Senate plan " SB 2404, or the "consideration" model " and refine the consideration offered to follow the parameters outlined by the Court. We should also integrate the additional funding streams in SB 1 (which are not subject to constitutional question), and assemble a new bill that offers long-term savings of a similar magnitude to SB 1. The Senate plan was negotiated with affected public employees, and the refined model will be fairer to teachers and retirees than was SB 1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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.

I am the lead sponsor of the "Fair Tax" constitutional amendment that would allow us to impose lower tax rates on lower income levels and higher tax rates on higher income levels. I also introduced a companion bill articulating three tax brackets " the net result of which would have been a tax cut for over 90% of Illinois families. Under my plan, a family of four earning less than $206,000 would pay less next year than they paid this year.

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?

I have supported the painful budgets we've adopted over the last several years. While we must always be on the lookout for wasteful or inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, I worry that we've reached a point where we've cut not only the fat but also the muscle and we are now digging into bone. Our elimination (and recent restoration) of adult dental care under Medicaid is a great example: the monetary costs resulting from our cuts exceeded our savings. I supported the adoption of "budgeting for results," to be sure that we plan our future spending based on outcomes.

What changes, if any, do you believe the state should make in the area of education? Would you support the the so-called pension cost-shift to local schools?

We should invest dramatically more in early childhood education. Every dollar spent saves between $7 and $26 in future expenditures. It's the best money we could spend. I do support a gradual, prospective transition of future teacher pension costs to the employers of those teachers, provided (1) that no obligation for past underfunding is transferred; (2) that the transition is done gradually (12-14 years) and in small increments so that there is no increase in property taxes; and (3) that the transition not begin until current collective bargaining contracts expire, so that districts can properly prepare for the obligations.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

Though my time in the Senate I've grown in my belief that early childhood education is the critical ingredient in addressing almost all of our other issues " education generally, special and remedial education, health care, social safety net, corrections. So many complicated and expensive issues we grapple with today would be mitigated if more children arrived in kindergarten happy, healthy, and ready to learn.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

I admire everyone who makes the sacrifice required to serve. In the current climate, I'm not sure any one of us deserves admiration.

What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?

Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?

My father died when I was ten. I'd like the chance to grow up again with him around.

What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?

Writing and economics. Writing gave me communication tools and a love of language. Economics gave me a prism through which to evaluate and predict.

If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?

I tell them often "Timing is everything." Now that that's sunk in, I think I'll say "Any job worth doing is worth doing well."