Leslie Munger: Candidate Profile
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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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Family: John (husband), Tom and Andy (sons)
Occupation: State Comptroller
Education: B.A.; University of Illinois
M.B.A; Northwestern University
Civic involvement: Volunteer and former Board member at the Riverside Foundation, a non-for-profit residential facility for developmentally disabled adults. Lincolnshire Citizen of the Year (2004); Riverside Volunteer of the Year (2013); Distinguished Service Award Honoree (2016); School District 103 Foundation Board for 7 years, spending 3 of those years as President; University of Illinois Student Affairs Advisory Council for 3 years.
Elected offices held: This is my first government office
Should lawmakers be paid on time or should they be put in line for payment among all the state's unpaid bills?
The State should pay ALL its commitments on time. Sadly, due to decades of unbalanced budgets and underfunding pensions, we have over $8 billion of bills we cannot pay. Those doing business with Illinois wait months, even years, for payment. If non-profits, hospitals, schools, small businesses must wait for payment, we should also. Those elected as public servants should not be prioritized over those whose tax dollars fund our salaries. And if we were fiscally responsible and passed balanced budgets, ALL would be paid on time. I implemented this policy to make it clear we are all in this together.
Should a comptroller be more or less active in seeking court orders to pay for state programs during a budget stalemate? Should state employees get paid with no appropriation?
The unprecedented budget stalemate brought dozens of lawsuits from vendors seeking payments from the state. As Comptroller, my top priority has been to follow the law, comply with all Court Orders, and prioritize social services serving our most vulnerable. My office did successfully advocate in Court to pay state employees, to comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and avoid fines totaling three times the amount of missed payrolls. It was the fiscally responsible - and legal - course of action, as the Court ruled. But this is a poor substitute for a balanced budget, as our Constitution requires.
Should the office be merged with the treasurer? Please explain why or why not.
I strongly support merging the Comptroller's and Treasurer's Offices. Consolidation of the state's two fiscal offices would save taxpayers an estimated $12 million annually without any impact on service to our constituents. Unfortunately, the legislation has stalled in the General Assembly, where Speaker Madigan, who my opponent calls her "mentor," has blocked its progress time and again. I will continue to back the legislation and work with lawmakers to build support.
How would you streamline your office's duties to save the state money?
Since my first month in office, I've worked to deliver more effective and transparent government at a lower price. I immediately cut my budget 10% , returning more than $1 million to taxpayers in FY2015 and have continued to operate at that level in FY16-17. We have the lowest headcount in Comptroller Office history, without sacrificing services during our most challenging year. I'm leading the implementation of a new statewide accounting system to replace our antiquated COBOL-based network, which when complete will save Illinois $0.5 Billion annually. I've fought for zero growth in our pension board budgets, ISBI and SERS.
What special qualifications make you the best person to serve as state comptroller?
With 25 years in the private sector managing national brands and decades of community service, I bring a unique perspective to the job of Comptroller. As a business leader, I managed multi-million budgets, led a large staff, and met profit and growth goals. As a volunteer and Board member for a nonprofit serving developmentally disabled adults, I saw first-hand how difficult it is to operate when the State is so behind in payments. This combination of experience allows me to speak with credibility about the need to be more fiscally responsible while also advocating for our most vulnerable residents.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
The State Comptroller should be an independent voice for fiscal responsibility in our state, one who speaks frankly and honestly to educate the public and those in Springfield about state finances, and importantly leads solutions based on the financial facts -- and I've done just that. I have consistently followed the law and done what I believe is right, regardless of political pressure or partisanship. I gave up my state-paid pension and state-paid health care because I'm here to serve, not build my career, and help our state run more affordably, more efficiently, and more transparently for ALL Illinoisans.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Those leading our non-profit social service organizations, who keep their commitment to serve our most vulnerable, despite the state's failure to provide promised funding.
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Tell the truth, do your best, live within your means and treat others with respect. It's a good recipe for a happy life.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I would spend more time with my mom. Responsibilities of life frequently get in the way of spending time with those most important to us.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Business was my favorite. My graduate business studies led me to a career that I loved and built skills I still use as the Comptroller.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
If it is to be, it is up to me. It's a reminder to step up and lead when you can make a difference.