Name: John Spencer
Seat: State Representative, 109th District
Describe your background, and how it relates to being a state legislator.
I was born in Clay County, raised on a farm near Sailor Springs. I attended a two-room schoolhouse grades 1-8, and then Clay City High School. After high school, I attended Wabash Valley Junior College.
In 1969, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and was discharged with the rank of Sergeant E-5. I then attended Olney Central College. I sold insurance for New York Life until my father passed away. I then took over the family farm. In the early ‘80s I started a construction business that I still operate.
I have been interested in politics all of my life. I became a precinct committeeman in 1990 and have been Clay County Democrat chair for six years. I am also a member of Illinois Democrat County Chairs Association. I have lived through good times and bad times, and I know that politics plays a role in each. Our state and nation both need unity at this time and I will work to that end.
I have three daughters, two who live in Flora, and one in Washington state, I have seven grandchildren.
Health care is very important to me, having lost a wife to cancer and myself now being one-year cancer free. I have several issues that I will work for: Education, jobs, agriculture, health care, and most of all, bring us into the 21st century with broadband internet. More cellphone towers to serve blind spots, water for those who still do not have rural water. In less than 4 1/2 years we will be a quarter way through the 21st century, but for most of us we are still in the 20th century.
My Facebook page is Elect John Spencer.
Grade the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state of Illinois currently has over 8,450 deaths related to the coronavirus. Our area is now experiencing several cases each and every day. The coronavirus is real. No stone should be left unturned to defeat this epidemic. Our elderly, those with health problems, and our long-term health care centers deserve to be protected at all costs. Our governor did his job early on to protect us and should be complimented on his concern for the citizens of this state. You must ask yourself one question, what would you think of J.B. had he done nothing?
What can the state legislature do to help with the recovery from the pandemic?
The state legislature can help those who have been infected by passing an early detection health plan. A lot of people who have been infected have no health insurance. It is cheaper to prevent a heart attack than it is after it has happened. The same is true of cancer and many other diseases that will show up on a CT scan or X-ray. The federal government needs to step up and help small business. The State of Illinois is short of money. We must realize this is not just an Illinois problem, but a problem worldwide. We can help people who have lost their jobs with retraining at local junior colleges.
Besides the pandemic, what is the biggest issue facing the state, and how does it affect the people in your district? How will you address it?
The biggest issue facing the 109th district as well as all of southern Illinois is education, jobs, broadband internet and mental health facilities. Both sides of the aisle are talking forced school consolidation. One size does not fit all. For Effingham County, I would propose that all school districts are dissolved and form one new district with one administrator, and all teachers would be under the same umbrella. Leave all schools in place, move teachers, not students. Closing schools in Altamont, Dieterich, Beecher City and Teutopolis would devastate these towns. We can help agriculture with a third crop option and create thousands of jobs with industrial hemp. Over 25,000 different products can be made with hemp. Plastics that will decompose quickly is just one option. We are ideally located for this crop and have several empty factory buildings in southern Illinois. Broadband internet is one of the most important issues facing our area. Industry will not come without it. Farmers and school children need it. With the capital bill, we have the money in a lockbox to fund internet with cost sharing with the federal government. The 109th needs more mental health facilities and funding for our health departments. You do not realize how important these places are until you need them. We also need more funding for children and family services. They are severely understaffed.
Describe an issue that is unique to your district and how you would address it in the legislature.
What is your position on the progressive tax amendment? Why do you support or oppose it?
I support the progressive tax. If you make less than $250,000, your taxes will not raise. If the progressive tax fails, everyone will see a tax increase. The progressive tax is the gateway to take education out of property taxes, thus reducing property taxes by approximately 50% and funding education through the state. I have been told by many that if the progressive tax passes, the state legislature can raise my taxes. In reality, flat or progressive, the state legislature can raise your taxes anytime it is deemed necessary. The difference would be that if taxes are raised with the progressive tax, it would not be to the extent of that of a flat tax. Illinois has the fewest employees per capita of any state in the nation. We cannot afford to cut, cut, cut. When we cut employees, we cut services that citizens of this state rely on.
If you are elected, how would you reach out to constituents who did not vote for you and what would you do to make sure their concerns are heard? How in general will you stay connected to your constituents?
If elected, I will represent the poorest constituent just as much as the richest. I am not running for some good job down the road or for personal gain. I am running to to represent all the people so that they can have a better life than their parents, and that their kids and grandkids can have a better life than them. I want to help create good jobs so that families can stay in the area and not be forced to move away to find a job. If elected and someone tells me, “I did not vote for you, but I need help,” rest assured you will get my help. I would also put an office in the most central part of the district, have travel schedules, and maintain a part-time office in Louisville.
Describe how you would find ways to work with legislators on the other side of the aisle.
I am old enough to remember when both sides worked together and came to a compromise. That is still my belief today. If a Republican came up with an idea to help the citizens of this state, I would help support that issue. Both sides need to work together and not against each other. We as a state and nation need unity, not division. I will strive for unity.