Q+A with Robin Kelly, Democrat for Illinois State Treasurer
Today, I am quite pleased to present a Q+A with Robin Kelly, the Democratic nominee for State Treasurer of Illinois. The first statewide major party candidate to grace this website, Ms Kelly won in her Democratic primary a few months ago and faces a tough race in November. Most recently, she served as Chief of Staff to current Treasurer and US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias and she also was a State Representative from the south suburbs of Chicago.
The race for Treasurer is heated, with Ms Kelly facing Republican Dan Rutherford, a State Senator and Scott Summers from the Green party. To read more about the race, click here. All candidates have been afforded the possibility of being interviewed for this series.
Without further ado, here is the Q+A with Robin Kelly and I thank her for her participation in this interview process. Her website can be accessed here.
As a working mother who has juggled her family, education and career, I have always believed that with hard work and sacrifice, you can make a difference. This fundamental principle has guided me throughout my life and serves as the basis for why I want to become Illinois’ next State Treasurer. The people of Illinois need and deserve a Treasurer who will stand up for them and effectively lead our state forward.
We face enormous challenges – the worst economy since the Great Depression, skyrocketing unemployment figures, growing budget deficits, record rates of home foreclosures and rapidly rising education costs. Our state is in need of greater accountability and more innovative thinking to protect taxpayers and consumers. As Treasurer, I will bring financial expertise, a reform-based agenda and an independent perspective to state government. I also will work to restore the public’s trust and confidence in government. Illinois residents are tired of scandal and ethics abuses surrounding their elected officials and cannot afford more distractions during these difficult times. Serving as a fiscal watchdog for the people of Illinois will continue to be my No. 1 priority.
2. You grew up in New York and attended Bradley University in Peoria for your undergraduate degree. What made you want to stay in Illinois after graduating?
Central Illinois felt like home. My former husband worked at Caterpillar, and Peoria was a great place to start my family and pursue my master’s degree. We weathered two strikes together and understanding the stress that can put on a family, I volunteered at a clinic and counseled men and women who were experiencing financial hardship and were prone to abuse.
3. This is one of the most trying fiscal times in Illinois history. What is one state program that you would advocate eliminating and one state program that should be wholly protected from budget cuts?
As chief of staff to the Treasurer, my expertise is on our office’s budget. We are constantly looking for ways to do more with less. In the first year of our administration, we cut $100,000 in discretionary spending. To this day, we’ve continued to cut: we terminated two unnecessary contracts worth $750,000, slashed overtime by using eBay to sell unclaimed property and reduced travel costs in our outreach departments by opening satellite offices around the state in rent-free government buildings. Government departments and agencies need to review their budgets like regular households; when less money is coming in, you must tighten your belt and live within your means.
4. Before your time as Chief of Staff to current Treasurer and US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, you served as State Representative of the 38th district, representing some of the southern suburbs of Chicago. What is the bill you are most proud of sponsoring during your 5 year tenure?
As a State Representative, I sponsored grace period legislation that allows people to register to vote up to two weeks before an election. I also sponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage, voted to require businesses that receive state economic assistance to meet their job creation promises, voted to safeguard unemployment insurance for workers who were locked out by their employers, and voted to allow public employees to establish unions based on card-check recognition. Working with then-State Sen. Barack Obama, we passed legislation that created the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit program that incentivized businesses to locate or expand operations in Illinois. The program is especially effective at encouraging small to medium sized businesses to create jobs in the state.
5. You have also served as a member of Place Matters, a national organization focusing on health-care related issues in the African-American community. With this interest in health care, how can you, as Treasurer, facilitate the implementation of the new health care bill to best benefit Illinoisans?
As Treasurer, I would administer the Opportunity Illinois program, which reduces the interest rates on loans to health care centers and hospitals that need financing to expand into underserved communities. I recently attended the ribbon cutting for one of the program’s participants, the PCC Austin Community Health Care Center. With our help they built a new, environmentally sound building on West Lake Street in Chicago that will accommodate three times more patients than its previous site and offer quality medical, dental and prenatal care to a low-income community.
6. Recently, it was Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. If these two teams are pitted against each other in the World Series, who will you be rooting for?
Being a native New Yorker, it’s no secret I am a Yankees and Mets fan. I would remain neutral in a Cubs-Sox World Series.
7. Governor and candidate for reelection Pat Quinn recently announced that his new running mate will be Sheila Simon, after a debacle where the original nominee for Lieutenant Governor had to drop out of the race. Would you, from a budgetary viewpoint, advocate for the elimination of the office of Lieutenant Governor? Why or why not?
Given the state’s financial crisis, I think we need to look carefully at all the ways we can cut costs and eliminate duplicative services without reducing necessary services to taxpayers. I favor a substantive analysis of the duties and responsibilities of Lieutenant Governor, along with the offices of Treasurer and Comptroller, to see whether it is feasible and cost-effective to consolidate.
8. You live in Matteson, a town of 17,000 which can boast a 110 acre “auto mall”, the largest grouping of car dealerships in Illinois. As you rack up the miles campaigning through the state, what kind of car do you drive?
A Pontiac Grand Prix.
9. One important issue in your campaign is increasing financial literacy. What is one quick tip that you can give that can save Illinois’ tax payers right now?
Americans need to shift their priorities and focus on becoming savers and investors, not borrowers and spenders. I recommend every taxpayer make a household budget and stick to it. Save up for purchases instead of reaching for credit cards.
10. While it may seem like they never happen, surely you have a few days off from campaigning now and again. What is your favorite activity for those rare days off?
Spending time with my husband and family.