On Sept. 6, Libertarian Mike Leheney appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why he’s running for Illinois treasurer in the 2018 general election.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also sent the nominees for Illinois Treasurer a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state. Leheney submitted the following answers to our questionnaire.
What would be your top three priorities as treasurer?
Leheney:The first focus of the treasurer should always be the prudent investment of taxpayer funds. Maximizing investment returns within an appropriate risk profile serves as the basis of the treasurer’s day-to-day activities. Next, I would like to expand the reporting available to the general public so that they have an easily digestible look into what is happening with their tax dollars. Expanded reporting would also cover an analysis of state programs to who their fiscal viability as well as their effectiveness. Third, I would act as a fiscal advocate for the people of Illinois. Unfortunately, our elected representatives have put us on a path for fiscal disaster and we need a treasurer who acts outwardly on their behalf. I would partner with the legislature to create financial responsible policy, and hold them accountable when they don’t.
Do you support a constitutional amendment to merge the state offices of treasurer and comptroller? Please explain.
Leheney: I support creating savings in the overhead of our government wherever we can. However, I do not currently support merging the offices. I believe we can get the savings related to consolidation without removing an elected position accountable to the people of Illinois. Separating the powers of the two offices helps to create a system of checks and balances that is tough to replicate when these offices are combined. I am open to a conversation on what that new office would look like, but I am skeptical it would be done in a manner that would be beneficial to the people of Illinois. That said, I am open to the idea that the people should be able to vote on whether or not the offices should be combined and would support putting a referendum on the ballot.
Who is Mike Leheney?
His political/civic background: I am a first-time candidate though I have been active in local political issues as the chairman of the Kankakee County chapter of the Libertarian party. In that role, I advocate for the reduction of unnecessary regulation that stifles job creation in our community and fiscal responsibility of our local taxing bodies. His occupation: Financial Operations and Demand Planning for Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants His education: BS in Finance from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign Campaign website: leheneyforillinois.com
Should the state take into consideration issues of “social responsibility” when investing funds? Would it be appropriate, for example, to prohibit or limit the investment of state pension funds in certain companies that make guns and ammunition? Please explain.
Leheney: The social responsibility that should be considered when investing the money of the people of Illinois is whether or not it improves the economy of the state of Illinois. If we can create jobs and rising wage through strategic investment, we should do it. Picking and choosing which industries are winners and losers in the state is not the responsibility of the treasurer. The market can do that job much more efficiently.
When is it appropriate for the treasurer to take public positions on legislation before the General Assembly?
Leheney: Ideally, the treasurer would never have to take a public position on legislation before the General Assembly. However, Illinois is clearly in a less than ideal position financially. For decades, the General Assembly has ignored what should be fiscal common sense and we need our next Treasurer to take the lead on advocating for something better. The Treasurer needs to establish themselves as the leading financial mind in the state and help guide Illinois on a path to solvency.
Do you support a graduated income tax? Why or why not?
Leheney: No, I do not support a graduated income tax. The graduated income tax plans being proposed are the next step towards Illinois’ eventual bankruptcy. It will drive more people and business out of Illinois. We need legislators to start making hard decisions about spending. We need structural reform in state pensions. We need to cap property taxes. What we don’t need is the continued conversation about how to take more money from an already over-taxed residency.
There is a push in Illinois to legalize marijuana, in part to increase state revenue. What is your view on that?
Leheney: The War on Drugs is a failed idea, as prohibition of any substance always is. The increase in sales taxes is the least of the reasons we should legalize marijuana, but can’t be overlooked as an ancillary benefit to state tax coffers. Marijuana legalization has any number of benefits to the people of Illinois, with virtually no downsides. The arguments against it are based on fear and nothing more. We should take some of our cues from Portugal who has decriminalized nearly all drugs and seen great social progress.
What are the biggest differences, as the potential treasurer, between you and your opponents?
Leheney: The two biggest differences between my opponents and I are easy to see. First, I am the only candidate who can be a true independent financial mind representing the people of Illinois. The two-party system they represent has failed us and we need someone who is not beholden to that broken system that can represent fiscal sanity. An independent financial mind can work with those fighting for it on both sides of the aisle without having to worry about how party bosses might feel about it. Additionally, my opponents believe the treasurer should stay behind the scenes. As I have spoken to before, that would be great if Illinois had a healthy balance sheet. The fact remains that we need a financial leader to guide us out of the mess we are in. We need an active advocate for the people.
Have you accepted, or will you accept in the future, campaign donations from current or potential vendors, suppliers or contractors?
Leheney: I have never and will never accept any donations from any organization that would present me with any moral conflict. My campaign has been entirely financed by me, my friends, family, and small individual donations from the people of Illinois. I won’t even take money from my party, as I will not be beholden to any of the implications that would arise from that.
What experience has best prepared you to be treasurer?
Leheney: I have worked across many industries over 19 years in a variety of finance roles. I understand the environment we need to create in this state to boost our economy through improved wage and job prospects for its people. I have talked, but more importantly listened, to the people of Illinois and developed a keen understanding of the common problems we all face. My fight to become treasurer wants to ensure that the next generation has better opportunities for a life in Illinois than we are currently handing them.
What else should voters know about you?
Leheney: I have been happily married to my wife Kim for twelve years and we have three amazing children together. Being a father drives me to fight for Illinois’ future. I am not part of the wealthy and connected elite who are stealing this state from us, but I am a part of the group who will take this state back. I am asking that you vote for real change on election day. Voting for the status quo will bring you more of the same, and we can all see where that is headed. Thank you for your consideration.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.