Tri States Public Radio Staff
Illinois Candidate Profile
Mon October 22, 2012
Democrat John Sullivan - 47th District State Senate
The incumbent for an Illinois Senate seat in western Illinois is John Sullivan (D-Rushville). He is completing his third term in the Senate.
Sullivan said progress has been made during his time in the Legislature but there is more to do, which is why he is running for a fourth term.
Sullivan said NTN Bower in Macomb and Farmland Foods in Monmouth have expanded while he's been in office and Pella brought a new plant to Macomb. He said the state offers job creation incentives and he's worked to make sure some of that money has come to his district.
"Obviously those dollars are very competitive.There's only so many dollars to go around the state of Illinois," Sullivan said. "A lot of times my role - in the role of a legislator - is as a go-between between the company and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Making sure that all their questions are answered, making sure that the applications are covered, and quite frankly trying to put a good word in for this project."
Sullivan said in the case of the Farmland expansion, he also worked with the city to get money for expanding its waste water treatment capacity, which allowed for the company to grow.
Sullivan thinks the state's finances will eventually improve, but he called the current spending plan a "tough budget" with every agency and department experiencing some cuts as part of what he called a "shared sacrifice." He said the next state budget will also require shared sacrifice and there might be several years of tough budgets to straighten out the state's finances.
"We have to get our fiscal house in order now," Sullivan said.
He said lawmakers worked hard on Medicaid reform this year. He said the costs had grown out of control plus there was waste and fraud in the system. He said the reforms passed with bi-partisan support in both chambers of the legislature.
The next step is to reform the state pension system, which he said is unsustainable.
"I think it's going to have to be a shared sacrifice again. Everybody's going to have to have skin in the game on this."
Sullivan said any change will need to be constitutional, all affected groups will need to be at the table, and it will need to have bi-partisan support. He said reforms should cover all five state employee pension systems. Sullivan also said he is concerned about the possibility of shifting pension costs to local school districts and community colleges. He said they have no extra cash to pay for the expense.
Sullivan said pension reforms will be his top priority if re-elected. He thinks the issue will be dealt with now that Medicaid reforms have been accomplished.
"That was actually more of an urgent, pressing problem because the cost of Medicaid was literally going up annually at a rate that was even more rapid than the pension costs."
Sullivan believes pension system reforms are more likely to happen during the new General Assembly than during the fall veto session. He said the business community will be more willing to invest in the state once the pension system is stabilized.
Sullivan said he supported the bill to expand gambling in the state, in part because of his background in agriculture.
"The whole agricultural industry with regard to horses and horse racing and county fairs and so on and so forth were big winners in this gaming expansion."
He said the bill - which was vetoed by the governor - would bring in $500 million per year for the state plus it would create jobs. He hopes lawmakers vote to overturn the veto this fall.
Sullivan underwent surgery for liposarcoma in August. He said all of the cancer has been removed and he is now feeling good. Sullivan said he is "absolutely" capable of serving another term.
Sullivan said during his time in office he has worked hard to educate himself on issues and to make informed decisions.
"I try to make decisions based on the district and who I represent and the people I represent," Sullivan said. "I promise that I will continue to work hard and I'll try to make decisions based on what I think is best for the most people in my district."
Sullivan said he has spent his entire life in western Illinois. He graduated from Quincy College and is a partner in the family auction and real estate business.
Sullivan serves on agriculture, higher education, revenue, and several other Senate committees. He is the Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate.