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November 8, 2016 — Illinois General Election
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November 8, 2016 —Illinois General Election

State of Illinois — ” Susana Mendoza, Candidate for ComptrollerUnexpired 2-year term

Photo of Susana Mendoza

Susana Mendoza

Democratic
Elected Official
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Be an independent truth-telling fiscal watchdog that prioritizes both the fiscal and moral health of the state. My top priority will be to continually serve and protect the most vulnerable populations in this State.
  • Work to enhance the overall internal control environment of the State in order to run a more effective, transparent and efficient office.
  • Broker needed fiscal stewardship measures across the Illinois state enterprise and leverage technological advances to make it more efficient and easier to maintain accountable stewardship of and control over funds.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Elected Official
Coordinator of business outreach, Chicago Department of Planning and Development (not availa–not availa)
Clerk, City of Chicago — Elected position (2011–current)
Member, Illinois House of Representatives — Elected position (2001–2011)

Education

Northeast Missouri State University (now called Truman State University) B.A., Business Administration (1994)

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (8)

The Illinois comptroller should not only manage the state's checkbook, but speak out for responsible fiscal decisions. What will you be telling Illinois leaders about the state’s financial situation?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

In my five years as Chicago City Clerk, we have implemented new policies and engineered a turnaround that has saved taxpayers millions of dollars, vastly improved customer service and created nearly $50 million dollars in new, sustainable revenue for the City. A City office once known for patronage and corruption is now a model for efficiency, transparency and smart government. I will apply my proven executive experience and management expertise to the Office of the Comptroller to better serve the people of Illinois.

 

The current fiscal crisis in Illinois will require careful and effective management as we work to stabilize the state’s finances. The goal will be providing for the common good while eliminating the practices that led to the financial crisis our state faces today.

 

 

I will tell Illinois leaders that it is imperative that all legislative and statewide leadership put partisan politics aside to examine the most comprehensive and effective fiscal strategies to bring about a financial recovery across the state. We’re all fully aware that the State is going through a horrific financial crisis, but rancorous talk alone will do nothing to solve it. True recovery can only start with cooperation and sensible solutions to end the budget stalemate. Leaders have a responsibility to act like adults, understand the crisis the state is in, present strategic plans, and in other words, get to work.

Illinois faces huge challenges in funding its pension systems. The comptroller serves on the state investment board and chairs the state employee retirement system board. If the governor and Legislature don’t provide full funding for pensions, what is the comptroller obligated to do about that?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

I unequivocally support the full funding of our State pensions. We must protect the promises made to our retirees and follow the state constitution as directed by the courts. That said, I will fiercely advocate against repeating any past practices that landed our pension system where it is today. We must ensure that our state pension system remains viable for current and future retirees, while at the same time ensure that funding for other critical programs, like education, does not get crowded out by our obligation to our pension system. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past. I will be a strong voice for long-term reform in this debate and work closely with leadership to make sure we are making decisions that are in the best interest of Illinois taxpayers.

A lesson Illinois should have learned by now is to not skip pension payments. Yet in the fall of 2015, a pension payment was again delayed. Does the comptroller have a fiduciary duty to speak out against that?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:
The Comptroller’s decision to delay a $560 million pension payment in October of 2015, triggered a negative outlook warning from Moody’s Investors Services. Not only was the decision fiscally irresponsible, but, according to legislators who helped draft the original pension payment law, it’s illegal. The Comptroller’s office not only abdicated on the fiduciary duty to speak out against skipping payments, but actually led the charge to delay them.   Certainly the comptroller has an obligation to the pension holders of the state and I will advocate for fully funding our pensions. As comptroller, I will be a strong, independent and outspoken fiscal watchdog. There are serious financial consequences for mistakes and in this economic climate, there is no margin for error.
When the state is operating without a budget, what role should the comptroller play in minimizing the negative aspects of having no budget and bringing the state toward a resolution?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

 

The comptroller’s duty is to determine priority of payments due, and the best way to do that is to be fully independent. That means not managing the State’s checkbook under the direction of the Governor, which is clearly the case today. I believe that the comptroller has a responsibility to prioritize both the fiscal and moral health of the State. My first priority will be to continually serve and protect the most vulnerable populations of this State, and not allow myself to be party to a political agenda that, for all intents and purposes, holds payments to the most vulnerable in our state hostage. I will not stand by quietly while child care or senior care workers have to fight for payments in the courts. Secondly, I will continue to encourage both sides to come to the table and negotiate in the best interests of the State. I believe common ground can be found and I will commit to being part of the solution. Too much is at stake for our future – and we are already seeing the damage from the budget stalemate from college students not returning to school because of a lack of MAP grant funding to families across the state having to decide between work or welfare because they cannot afford child care. Seniors are going hungry without food due to the cuts to Meals on Wheels. The current comptroller waited to be sued and threatened to be held in contempt of court before releasing payments to early childhood intervention service providers and developmentally disabled seniors.  This can only be described as shameful. I understand the State needs to get its fiscal house in order, but I know from experience as Chicago City Clerk that with vision and determination, we can transform government to better serve people while saving taxpayer dollars in the process.

Should the comptroller mechanically pay bills in the order they come in, or does the comptroller have a responsibility to prioritize who gets paid first? If the comptroller decides who gets paid first, is there a risk of politics influencing those decisions? What controls would you put in place to prevent that? If you agree payments should be prioritized, to whom would you give priority?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

The Turnaround Agenda, holding people hostage for non-budgetary agenda items is politics.  Proudly declaring to be the Governor’s “wingman” on his budget that hurts working families is politics.  Refusing to release payments that benefit the most vulnerable, including developmentally disabled children and seniors, until being forced to do so by the courts is politics at its worst.

 

By playing politics, our comptroller has marginalized those who don’t have a voice in Springfield, like the workers who sued her to keep the doors of their domestic violence shelters open.

 

Doing the right thing and putting people ahead of politics means protecting the most vulnerable: parents who rely on child care, the disabled, and seniors who participate in meals programs because it might be the only meal they get that day.

 

 

I won’t stand by while needy people are bullied for political gain.  We need an independent advocate in the Office of Comptroller to defend the State’s most vulnerable citizens. My priorities will be guided by a strong moral compass and they are consistent with the precedent that the courts have already set.

Does the comptroller have a responsibility to act as a tool for economic development by expediting payments to small businesses in distressed communities?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

 

Small businesses play a vital role in the Illinois economy by employing a large number of residents and producing a substantial amount of tax revenue. In times of financial crises, small businesses do not have the liquidity of larger enterprises and are at greater risk of failure. In distressed communities the effects of a lost business and the subsequent unemployment of residents could be devastating. Therefore, in instances where the Comptroller’s office can assist struggling but viable small businesses in distressed communities, it is sound financial policy to do so.

Should the Illinois offices of treasurer and comptroller be merged? Will you publicly advocate for a constitutional amendment to merge the offices?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

When I ran for Chicago City Clerk in 2011, the Civic Federation called for merging the Office of the City Clerk with the Mayor’s Office.  They argued that the City Clerk could do nothing that the Mayor’s Office was not already capable of doing.  

 

Four years later the Civic Federation is no longer calling for the merger. Chicagoans have seen how, in just five years, I dramatically and successfully overhauled the Office of the City Clerk of Chicago to better serve them. Our 21st Century reboot of a City Sticker Program dating back to 1908, was lauded by both customers and national experts on innovation in government, and earned us the “Bright Idea Award” from Harvard University.  Our Office is now recognized for increasing access to City Council and City government. Unlike most government offices, I have led the charge of doing more with less. That means, streamlining systems, cutting overtime, and voluntarily coming in under budget year after year. I feel a strong responsibility to protect every tax dollar. As such, I have saved Chicagoans millions of dollars, all the while improving customer service. On top of that, we have generated nearly $50 million dollars in new, sustainable revenue for the City by eliminating fraud, increasing compliance, and running a more effective and efficient office.

 

Our independence in the Office of the City Clerk also allows me to serve as an advocate separate from the Mayor’s Office, a voice that residents value. We have passed landmark legislation to protect animals and new laws that protect consumers. I proved I could turn a long-criticized office into one that is valued by residents and I know I can do the same for the Comptroller’s Office.

 

Additionally, I support the concepts behind the creation of the Comptroller’s Office during the 1970 state constitutional convention. As a result of the conviction for embezzlement that occurred in the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts under Orville Hodge in 1956, the Comptroller’s Office was created in part to provide a firewall between the separate functions of investing the State’s monies and paying the State’s bills. Furthermore, an office that serves as an advocate and fiscal watchdog is important for the people of Illinois. I have a record of successfully saving taxpayer dollars, providing better customer service and finding efficiencies where others turned a blind eye. If, after implementing significant reforms to the Office of the Comptroller, I determine that a merger would be better for the State of Illinois and for taxpayers, I would support that. At this moment in time, while our State is going through it’s worst financial crisis, and people are literally being left behind, an independent advocate for taxpayers in the comptroller is needed more than ever before.

The comptroller is responsible for auditing local governments. What role should the comptroller play in ensuring Illinois’ local government structure is efficient?
Answer from Susana Mendoza:

As Comptroller, I would advocate for the consolidation of some layers of local government. Illinois has more elected offices, such as highway districts and townships, than any other state and there are opportunities for consolidation and savings.

 

The Comptroller also plays an important role in the overall accountability continuum by ensuring our local governments also demonstrate appropriate levels of stewardship to their stakeholders. I intend to shine a brighter light on this important aspect of the Office.

 

 

The Comptroller has a duty to use objective oversight and careful monitoring of local governments to ensure that wasteful practices and spending are avoided. Bad operators should be signaled out and required to follow best practices. Ineffective services and spending, even in the smallest of local governments, can quickly lead to greater deficit problems for other communities.

 

Videos (1)

— September 30, 2016 Chicago Sun-Times

Susana Mendoza tells why she should be the Illinois State Comptroller.

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