Sheila Simon: Candidate Profile
Back to Comptroller
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: Husband: Perry Knop Daughters: Reilly Knop, Brennan Knop
Occupation: Lieutenant Governor
Education: B.A. Wittenberg University J.D. Georgetown Law School
Civic involvement: Sheila chaired a Southern District of Illinois screening committee for Senator Dick Durbin, and served on the board of directors of the Women's Center in Carbondale, the Jackson County NAACP, and the Illinois Arts Council, among other organizations.
Elected offices held: Carbondale City Council; Lieutenant Governor
How would you streamline your office's duties to save the state money?
I will conduct an audit in my first 100 days to determine where cuts can be made, duplicative services eliminated and efficiencies realized. My first target is the consumer division of the Comptroller's office. Illinois does not need a consumer advocacy office in the Attorney General's office, Treasurer's office AND Comptroller's office. As Comptroller, I will focus on statutory duties, not taxpayer-funded pet projects. Unlike my opponent, I have experience making hard cuts. As Lt. Governor, I cut my budget 30 percent by reducing headcount while also maintaining effectiveness.
What is something the office could be doing now that it isn't?
It needs to bring more transparency and accountability to state payments. 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 set objective standards and issue a regular report on expedited payments and the rationale behind moving certain bills to the front of the line.
What in your background makes you qualified for a specialized office like this?
I am a former lawyer, which will help the office properly interpret and improve existing laws regarding state finances. I served on the Carbondale City Council, where I helped manage a multi-million dollar budget and learned how the Comptroller's local government division could improve its local watchdog role. As Lt. Governor, I collaborated across state agencies and cut my budget 30 percent. But 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.
Should your office be combined with the treasurer's?
Yes, but the reality is that the General Assembly has never agreed to put consolidation on the ballot. That is why it is critical to work with the Treasurer to eliminate redundant positions and share personnel immediately, instead of just giving lip service to legislation. My Classrooms First Commission provided a roadmap for school districts on such voluntary consolidation, and I will follow that lead.
Is there anything the comptroller can do to help ease the state's bill backlog?
The Comptroller's office needs to be more transparent when it comes to paying bills, and it should demand more transparency from agencies as well. Right now, the public cannot tell how the Comptroller determines what bills get paid first. You should be able to see that payment decisions are based on need, not because the right lobbyist asking on a vendor's behalf. Also, taxpayers cannot tell the true extent of our unpaid bills because many vouchers are held back at agencies. The Comptroller should work with agencies to make that backlog public.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
I will establish new standards of reform and transparency in the office on Day One. I will prohibit campaign contributions from state employees and release my tax returns and financial profiles of myself and my top staffers each year.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Do what's right even if it's not popular. Dad learned this from his dad, who spoke out against Japanese-American internment during World War II.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I would consider many possibilities for a do-over as long as I could have the same family.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
A course titled "Women in Literature." Our professor challenged and charged up our reading habits. I still benefit from reading a wide range of writing.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?