RACE: Treasurer

About the Candidate

Name: Tom Demmer
DOB: 1986
Occupation: Member of the Illinois General Assembly (IL-90); Director of Strategy and Innovation at Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital (Dixon, Ill.)
Political Experience: Lee County Board (2009 - 2012); Illinois General Assembly (2013 - Present)
Website: www.teamdemmer.com
Twitter: @tomdemmer
Facebook: facebook.com/teamdemmer

Candidate Statement

Hello, I’m State Representative Tom Demmer.

I’ve served in the Illinois House of Representatives for the past 10 years, representing a district around my home town of Dixon, Ill. 

I’m now running to be your next State Treasurer because I believe Illinois needs a fiscal watchdog who will protect your tax dollars.

Just look at the news over the last couple of weeks:

There are continuous criminal indictments of politicians and a never ending stream of tax increase proposals.

Last election, Governor Pritzker pushed voters to approve a $3.5 billion tax hike to fuel even more spending. My opponent even talked about a tax on retirement income.

The people of Illinois overwhelmingly rejected the tax increase, but Springfield politicians kept spending anyway. 

I feel the frustration and confusion of Illinois voters.

I’m running to be your Treasurer to challenge the tax-and-spend status quo and call out the budget gimmicks that lead to tax hikes.

I’m running to fight for Illinois workers so they can be proud of their state and feel secure in building a career and a life here at home.

And I’m running to defend Illinois seniors who cannot afford a retirement tax.

As your Treasurer, I’ll be an independent voice working to restore checks-and-balances in state government.

I’ll be a responsible steward to protect and grow your hard-earned money and investments.

As a father of two, I understand the responsibility, anxiety and excitement of saving for your children’s future, and I will increase communication and transparency to better support the college savings program.

As your State Treasurer and fiscal watchdog, I will fight for you and for your interests, rather than the Springfield insiders.

My name is Tom Demmer and I’m asking for your vote to help me bring back checks and balances and protect Illinois families. 

Candidate Q&A

Why are you running?

I’ve lived in Dixon, Illinois, my entire life. My state and my community are part of who I am - they are my home. I played high school basketball here. I met my wife in Illinois. I bought my first home and started a family here. I believe in Illinois and the capacity and potential of the people who call it home.

I am running for State Treasurer to fight for Illinois families and for a brighter, more competitive future.

However, for too long, Springfield insiders have created legal and tax burdens that make it more difficult for people in Illinois to realize their dreams. We have a one-party system that operates to the benefit of Springfield insiders at the expense of the people of Illinois.

I will fight for Illinois workers so they can be proud of their state and feel secure in building and growing a family here in Illinois. I will fight for seniors who are living on a fixed income and against a tax on retirement income that will make it more difficult for them to enjoy their golden years.

What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?

As the House Republican leader on the bipartisan Medicaid Work Group, I’ve listened to countless patients and providers discuss how difficult it can be to navigate the rules of the Medicaid system. While it provides necessary services to people who need them most, the program also presents challenges.

One such challenge was the inability for people with disabilities to save for the future, or for parents of people with disabilities to pass along any savings without jeopardizing their child’s continued eligibility for Medicaid.

In 2014, I was proud to cosponsor the ABLE Account Program (SB1383), the state of Illinois bill enabling the 2014 federal law that allowed individuals with disabilities to create a protected savings account while maintaining Medicaid services. This is a program managed by the Treasurer’s office that is having a positive impact on its participants.

There are several issues that need fixing, but the most obvious is the consolidation of the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer. The current constitutional structure separates the state’s fiscal operations between the Treasurer and Comptroller creating issues around accountability and efficiency. Establishing a single fiscal office and officer would reduce the need for duplicate space and would allow for more centralized business processes. Operations under single management will increase accountability by preventing offices and officers from assigning blame to one another when issues arise.

For instance, a recent audit from the Auditor General cited the Treasurer with a material finding for insufficient internal controls which resulted in understating $1.6 billion on financial statements - a repeat finding from a previous audit. In follow-up reports, the Treasurer’s office blamed the Comptroller’s office for the issue without a substantive explanation of the cause or steps that will be taken to solve for the future. Consolidation would ensure fiscal accountability and responsibility falls in one office.

Since 2014, Treasurer Frerichs has claimed to support the measure, but eight years later he has not taken a substantive step to work with the public or the General Assembly to put this issue before the voters. He has advocated and worked to pass tax increases in the General Assembly, but he is nearly silent on consolidation. He needs to be accountable for his inaction.

Additionally, maximizing returns for the state is a key component of the job. With market volatility still high and the prospect of a prolonged recession rising, now is an opportune time for an examination of investment performance.

If elected, I would immediately begin a systematic review of the office’s existing contracts with fund managers and investment consultants to evaluate the performance of managed funds relative to applicable market trends and the fee structures for fund managers and other paid consultants.

I want to ensure that our portfolio standards are aligned with and exceeding industry benchmarks. If they are currently falling behind, I will take affirmative steps to get them back on track. Additionally, I will adopt internal review systems to ensure manager and portfolio performance is regularly reviewed, regardless of changes in leadership or contract expirations.

Too often our constitutional leaders deflect responsibility, point fingers and force the people of Illinois to pay for their bad policies with more taxes. As Treasurer, I will be a fiscal watchdog for the people of Illinois and work to restore accountability and trust in our budget and fiscal system.

What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?

As I travel across Illinois, the number one issue voters discuss are concerns they have about the rising cost of everything. In rural, suburban and city communities people are frustrated that everything from food to fuel to taxes are costing more as their income remains the same. On top of those concerns, economic indicators point to a protracted recession.

These concerns are enhanced by the misleading and contradictory messages from Governor Pritzker and Treasurer Frerichs. For instance, in 2020, together, they engaged in a campaign of fear tactics claiming that failure to pass their graduated income tax increase would force dramatic cuts to education spending and social services. At that time the Treasurer even floated the idea of discussing a tax on retirement income. However, during this year’s election, the Governor and Treasurer together are claiming a rosy fiscal picture without ever enacting an income tax increase or reducing state spending.

In addition to these contradictory messages on the budget and taxes, we have the potential for an upcoming Unemployment Insurance (UI) crisis. Over the last 2 years, most states used federal relief money to solve the debt problem in their unemployment funds caused by the pandemic. But, in Illinois, Springfield insiders approved only a partial payment of the debt, leaving a $1.8 billion hole.

Starting on January 1, 2023, two things will happen that the Treasurer has not mentioned: first, taxes will be increased on every job in Illinois; and second, unemployment benefits will be reduced for every worker in Illinois. Essentially, taxes will go up, benefits will go down and Governor Pritzker and Treasurer Frerichs are silent on this issue as well. This will hurt Illinois families and weaken the Illinois economy.

Illinois needs a fiscal watchdog who will act as a check on the Governor’s budget, spending enacted by the legislature, and claims from Springfield insiders who mislead voters to protect their political interests. As Treasurer, I will be an independent voice for Illinois voters fighting for a balanced state government and against new tax increases.

What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?

The Treasurer’s Office should be open and transparent in all that it does to establish trust and provide Illinoisans with the checks and balances in government they deserve. Transparency begins with continual, honest communication with the people of Illinois, but goes far beyond perfunctory newsletters and routine postings of financial statements.

I would specifically increase communication with our Bright Start families, many of whom are trying to save for college and may not have the time or financial literacy to regularly monitor their investments. For instance, in early 2021, the Treasurer’s Office could and should have had more direct communication with Bright Start investors to inform them that a market contraction was on the horizon and they should evaluate their fund choices to protect themselves from the potential downturn. Such communication may have mitigated the double-digit decline many near-college age students experienced months before starting school.

Additionally, to maintain trust and transparency, it is important for the Treasurer of Illinois to be open and available for questions from the people of Illinois. In 2014, my opponent made a claim that he has failed to honor. While running for Treasurer, he campaigned claiming he would post his schedule on the Treasurer’s website. However, month after month, his website simply says “content coming soon.”

During the pandemic, I held virtual town halls and facebook lives as an easy and convenient way to stay connected with my constituents. If elected Treasurer, I commit to continuing these regular sessions to make the office and my actions more accessible to Illinoisians.

Finally, as I previously mentioned, having two separate fiscal offices in the Comptroller and the Treasurer creates the opportunity for each to deflect responsibility and accountability when issues arise. Last year, the Treasurer was cited with a repeat finding for insufficient internal controls when $1.6B was understated on financial statements. Even after back-to-back findings, the Treasurer provided no substantive explanation of what caused the understatement of funds and what specific actions will be taken to resolve the problem.

As Treasurer, I pledge to produce a report on each material audit finding that provides a detailed account of the issue with a benchmarked plan to ensure resolution.