The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking election as Illinois governor in 2018 a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state.
Conservative party candidate Sam McCann submitted the following responses on Oct. 3.
What are the two biggest problems facing Illinois and what would you do about them?
McCann: The two biggest issues facing the state of Illinois are finances and trust in government. To address the state’s finances, I would revolutionize the budget process by implementing Zero Based Budgeting. ZBB is something the state of Illinois should utilize so that we are not offering these ineffective, broad-based budget solutions that fall apart once the nuance of government finance is realized. Zero Based Budgeting seeks to ensure that taxes are being spent as efficiently as possible and within the needs of the fiscal year. The current system of budgeting allows itself to be corrupted by funding special programs in perpetuity while neglecting new needs as they arise which means the funds are not there to adequately address the issues the State faces. Until we implement ZBB, no meaningful debt reduction will ever take place, regardless of taxes collected.
To address trust in government, that starts with leadership at the top. Bruce Rauner and JB Pritzker have made a bunch of money playing in a corrupt system that rewards the powerful and the well connected. I believe that as a member of the middle class, and as a proven public servant who has always put our Constitution and the People first, the Citizens will respect the fact that I’m not a billionaire governor playing in the sandbox of the new game of kings, Illinois politics. Also, we need real reform on how government works such as term limits- I have term limited myself, property tax reform, lobbying reform, and procurement reform.
Who is Sam McCann?
Running for: Illinois governor
Political/civic background: State Senator 50th District
Occupation: State Senator, Small Business Owner
Campaign website: McCannforIllinois.com
Even after raising the personal state income tax rate to 4.95 percent, Illinois had $9 billion in unpaid bills as of December. The state also must pay billions of dollars over the next 12 years to service the debt on $6 billion borrowed to cover previous unpaid bills. That’s a problem. What’s your solution? Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a higher income tax?
McCann: As previously stated, I believe we need to bring back Zero Based Budgeting. We need to treat the need of each fiscal year differently and have funding mechanisms that match that system. Let’s have a meaningful, open and honest conversation about EXPENSES FIRST, then we can talk about the income (taxes) side of the balance sheet.
Illinois has $130 billion of unfunded pension liability. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Do you support a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability? Please explain.
McCann: I do not support a constitutional amendment that would steal hardworking people’s pensions. It is a cruel practice to promise someone who has given their life to public service and then take away the modest pension they have and are counting on for a retirement with dignity. I would re-amortize the debt and flatten out the pension ramp. Springfield needs to have the fiscal discipline to pay the pension debt and I will push for reforms to hold them accountable. I would support legislation that makes the members of the legislature and governor’s office fiduciarily responsible for the pension funds and subject to legal action if they fail to properly manage the funds on behalf of the workers and taxpayers.
Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Should family members be empowered to petition the courts for the temporary confiscation of guns from mentally or emotionally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others?
McCann: I support the 2nd Amendment and I support the rule of law. Many of these reforms fly in the face of both. I think we ought to look at what is creating a culture where people are more likely to shoot one another when an altercation takes place than discussing their difference rationally.
As governor, how would you ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?
McCann: Medicaid, the single largest budget item in the State, needs serious reform. Three out of four births and a bizarrely high percentage of those in long term care are being paid for by Medicaid and that is an unsustainable practice. We need to make reforms to address fraud and abuse. Also, we should take measures to more accurately means-test recipients, so they are not receiving benefits meant for our most vulnerable citizens.
Under the ACA, 650,000 Illinoisans gained health insurance coverage. If the program is abolished or diminished by Congress, what action would you take, if any, to maintain health insurance coverage for these Illinoisans? Where would you find the money?
McCann: If the federal government were to abolish the ACA market places, the state of Illinois is not in the fiscal situation to take on that cost. Also, the ACA is a house of cards. It is built on the backs of working People who have to work harder; work more hours; and pay higher premiums so that others can receive “free” healthcare. The ACA is not affordable, equitable, compassionate or fair in any way. For every person it has “helped”, it has punished three more.
Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?
McCann: Let’s start by saying that investment in higher education has the best ROI for any state expenditure. Knowledge is power and we need to invest in our People’s future. Under Rauner, that has not happened. I believe that college should be affordable for students who are willing and able to attend college. I also believe that the push for people to attend 4-Year colleges has created a market failure where many people should have entered the trades and other vocational careers.
I think the premise of the questions of “best and brightest” in the context of college is too myopic. I think we need to ask ourselves how we can train our best and brightest to keep them here in Illinois. I cannot say whether there are too many colleges and universities or not, but I can tell you this… we do not have enough vocational and trade education for the best and brightest of Illinois.
Failed or fired public university presidents have received big payouts. Do you have any plans to consolidate or otherwise reorganize governance of the state’s university system?
McCann: I am leery of state government have any say in this. I believe that the accreditation services for our nation’s universities set oversight on their governance. If they were to make recommendations to me as Governor, I would greatly consider them. I do believe that golden parachutes for government and university executives is ridiculous and that is why I voted for the bill to stop that practice. Under no circumstance should a failed or fired university president be rewarded for their failure. The real key is in driving a better bargain on behalf of the taxpayers at the negotiation table when signing contracts with these administrators. I will appoint trustees who will be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars going into the agreement, so that taxpayers don’t get abused in these types of situations.
The Rauner administration has proposed scrapping limits on the rate of air pollution from a fleet of eight coal plants in central and southern Illinois owned by Dynegy Inc. Instead, the state would impose annual caps on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted by the fleet. Do you support this softening of emissions standards? If not, are you concerned coal plants could be closed and union workers could lose their jobs? Also, how would you support the adoption of clean energy, such as wind and solar, and energy conservation?
McCann: As an outdoorsman myself, when it comes to the environment, it is important to me to preserve it. When it comes to environmental policy, I want to make sure the rights of workers are balanced equally with the sweeping changes people try to impose. I will look closely at any evidence based best practices to protect the environment while simultaneously utilizing clean coal technology to accentuate one of our positives: abundant coal reserves and a hardworking and skilled workforce who know how to safely and efficiently recover it.
Under the state’s new school-funding model, Illinois will need $6.2 billion more to fully fund K-12 schools. Will you commit to full funding? Where will you get the money?
McCann: I will commit to fully funding our schools. I again lead you to the Zero Based Budgeting model that I look forward to implementing as Governor. Investing in our children should be a top priority in state government and would be a top priority in a ZBB model of government finance.
What is your position on the vetoed Illinois Wage Equity Act? (Vetoed by Rauner in 2017. A similar bill is on his desk)
McCann: Regardless of gender, race, or any other factor, people deserve equal pay for equal work. I voted YES on this legislation as a member of the senate.
How do you plan to address Illinois’ huge backlog of infrastructure construction and repair needs, including for roads, bridges, waterways and mass transit? Do you support an increased gas tax — and/or other taxes and fees — to finance infrastructure improvements, including public transit?
McCann: I will work across party lines to get a capital bill- something that is greatly needed and that has been ignored by the current administration. I will also work with the Trump Administration to get federal dollars to help pay for this much needed project. As far as financing goes, I think making sure we can not sweep road funds is a good public policy to ensure the money is there for this Capital Plan but also, I believe government should look how to leverage Federal, State, County, and Local money to ensure we are being as effective as possible with these capital dollars. Additionally, we currently collect sales tax on top of motor fuel tax on gasoline and highway diesel sales. I will lead an effort to send the state’s share of the sales tax to the Road Fund and not the General Revenue Fund, where it too often gets used by politicians to buy votes. We will use dollars for their intended purposes.
Jobs in Illinois are being lost to high-tech automation and artificial intelligence. It won’t even be long before cars drive themselves. Meanwhile, many other jobs, notably in the retail sector, are being lost to online alternatives. Do you have a plan to help guide displaced workers into new careers?
McCann: Training our workers that have been displaced is extremely important. That is why I plan on working with the Trump administration through the Illinois Department of Employment Security to make sure that we are investing in the training of displaced workers. We also need to take a hard look at recruiting the types of businesses to the state of Illinois that line up to the skill sets that our workers have.
Since the recession ended in 2009, neighboring states have added tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs while Illinois has not. What will you do to spur Illinois manufacturing?
McCann: I believe that first and foremost, investing in our own infrastructure through a capital bill will signal to manufacturers that we are serious about companies doing business in Illinois. When I talk to manufacturing companies they complain about the traffic and dated infrastructure which increases the time for their goods to make it to market. We need to fix that to entice them here.
I think the disfunction of the Rauner Administration has scared off business these last four years, since we were outpacing our neighbors before he came in to office. Business owners like stability. Taking your State to junk status does not inspire stability. I believe that having a government that works together will help spur business growth in the manufacturing sector.
Record amounts of money are pouring into top judicial races in Illinois and across the country. Is this a problem? Do you favor the public financing of judicial races?
McCann: Short answer, yes. Longer answer is that I think this election has proven that we need campaign finance reform. Sadly, the Illinois 2018 election is not as much of an election as it is an auction. The People deserve better. And I do believe that partisan politics, lobbyists and big-money should be removed from all elections, especially judicial elections.
What role does a governor’s power to commute sentences play in the overall effort to improve the quality of criminal justice in Illinois? Do you believe sentencing may have been overly harsh — or not tough enough — during the earlier years of the so-called “war on drugs.” And we now face a renewed war on drugs — this time opioids. Is the greatly increased use of opioids a criminal crisis or public health crisis?
McCann: I think we need to hold dealers accountable under the full extent of the law and we need to be compassionate with users. We need treat this like the medical crisis that it is. I will work with the Trump Administration who is working tirelessly to curb this heinous scourge on our communities. Cooperation between government, medical professionals, and non-profits is the only way this will ever be fixed.
A model gov. Which past governor of Illinois do you most admire and why? Which governor from any state would you most like to emulate?
McCann: I admire several of our past governors, and to pick one is tough, but I have to say Thomas Carlin. He was a Downstater who put the work of the People before the advancement of the parties. He governed through turbulent times and held our state together when other politicians sought to conquer by dividing. He was a one-term governor who left the state better than he found it.
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.