Suzanne Ness: Candidate profile
City: Crystal Lake
Office sought: Representative, State House District 66
Family: I am married and have 3 children -- a stepson, daughter-in-law, 2 daughters, and a granddaughter. I have a large extended family that lives nearby
Occupation: Small business owner of Forward Effect Coaching, corporate training and coaching firm
Education: Bachelor's in communications with a minor in women's studies. M.A. in organizational management, and a certification as a coactive coach
Civic involvement: Volunteer with the Carpentersville Rotary, involved in local chambers of commerce, and started a nonprofit that leads coaching groups for teens
Elected offices held: Current McHenry County Board Member, District 2
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: N/A
Questions and Answers
1. What is your position on placing a 'Fair Maps' amendment on the November ballot? If the amendment makes the ballot after the primary, will you support it? Why or why not?
Redistricting should be done in a fair and equitable manner -- ensuring that no one group is disenfranchised and that representation is fair. The goal of any redistricting effort should be that it serves the best interests of Illinoisans. I cannot answer this question with a yes or no answer without seeing the way it would be written on the ballot.
2. What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
Ethics reform should include the obvious components already covered such as conflicts of interest, fraud, waste and abuse, regulation of political activities, solicitation and acceptance of gifts, and sexual harassment. In addition, it should include lobbying activities of elected officials and bullying, cyberbullying and intimidation.
The way I would work to get this passed would be to hold myself and others accountable and because I believe that having a high ethical standard is vital to good governance and that it is in our best interest as elected officials to have high ethical standards, it would be the message I would carry to every member in the General Assembly. I would also allow time for hearing concerns to make sure it is utilized, but with a deadline, because ultimately it would have to pass in order to be effective. The voters want this as well.
3. What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
Consolidation is key and it has already begun. Also strictly protecting pension funds and limit pensions to 1 per person- even if they take the highest one, only allowing a person to collect 1 pension from a state-funded plan. Any plans for pension reform must include bringing all stakeholders to the table so that all interest groups can make their voices heard and so decisions are not being made solely by lawmakers.
4. Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership. Do you support term limits for majority and minority leaders in both chambers?
I have voted against votes that were supported by the highest party leader in our jurisdiction and by other members of my party. I am always willing to listen and consider all sides before making a decision. Change can be good when it makes sense. McHenry County voters voted in favor of term limits and I supported that.
5. What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
It's time to change the narrative that Illinois is a terrible place to live. I moved back here 15 years ago because I wanted my children to get a good education, which they did.
Providing working and middle-class tax relief is imperative.
Invest in education from the earliest start on through higher ed to ensure we have a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce. People want to have their kids in good schools and employers want to be near their employees.
Make it easier for people to retire here and stay close to their families.
Incentivize graduating high schoolers to choose Illinois schools -- this could be based on GPA coupled with a tuition break. Employers seek out new graduates as well so this would be an additional incentive for companies to move here.
Lastly, let's bring down the cost of health care in as many ways as we can: controlling drug and medical costs, boosting funding of public health initiatives so more people get preventive checks, and use one of our most vital resources -- land -- to provide healthy ingredients by encouraging more local sourcing.
6. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Yes, I believe that climate change is caused by human activity and we need to explore a number of options including building a renewable energy infrastructure, looking into activities like regenerative farming since so much of Illinois is covered in farmland, and encourage companies and individuals to use more recycling and upcycling in manufacturing and purchasing. Use public service ads to encourage green living strategies in households and businesses.
7. The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can you offer voters?
The most important thing legislators can do is to ensure that the money goes to what it is meant to go to and that the relief 97% of Illinoisans see is not canceled out by another tax on something else. The increased revenue must be used to benefit everyone -- improve the state finances, encourage economic growth, and ensure the future viability of our great state. Also we must be diligent with managing costs, finding efficiencies, and encouraging equitable economic growth.