Jeff Keicher: Candidate profile, Illinois House 70th District
Incumbent Republican Jeff Keicher of Sycamore faces a challenge by Democrat Paul Stoddard of DeKalb, a DeKalb County board member, in the race for the 70th House District, which includes western Kane County (including parts of Campton Hills, Hampshire and Elburn), as well as portions of DeKalb and Boone counties.
Q. Why are you the best person for this position?
A. My bipartisan success continues to be shown in my voting record. I focused on bringing jobs. A lot of people talk about that but my result is passage of the Data Center Incentive that has resulted in an $800 Million Facebook data center in DeKalb. It will bring great jobs and opportunity for Illinois. Similar the Manufacturers Purchase Credit and R&D credit helped Illinois and DeKalb earn the opportunity for Ferrara Candy to locate their distribution facility and manufacturing center in DeKalb, more great jobs and opportunity for our area. My bipartisan capstone was our first term Democratic Governor come to my district to sign a bill I was the Chief House Sponsor expanding diagnostic screening for mammograms. This was a unanimous vote led by Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes in the Senate and Jeff Keicher in the House. Education has been a strong focus from my committee work and securing additional funding for NIU and elementary and secondary education was a top successful priority. I also serve on the House Agriculture Committee where my work has been focused on protecting our farmers' opportunity to have Illinois continue to be the innovator in Ag Sciences and family legacies.
Q. What are the top three challenges your district is facing? What is your proposed solution to those challenges?
A. Economy and employment Education of our next generations Preserving excellent health care availability.
Q. The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can be given to voters?
A. There is a shortfall of $3 billion from the governor's spending plan and the passed graduated tax rates. There continues to be a refusal of commitment from supporters on what impact that gap will have to the Illinois middle class over time. Additional spending reforms should proceed additional tax increases that will eventually impact our middle class, job creators and retirees. Even the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce has expressed grave concerns for the impact to Illinois opportunity to successfully move forward should this pass. I ask for honest disclosure from my peers, I am fearful we have not seen the end of these tax increases.
Q. What legislative changes should be implemented as a result of the COVID pandemic?
A. Foremost the Illinois General Assembly has got to be engaged in the process of helping our citizens but we have not been allowed to meet in session. Currently our Governor has developed rules, restrictions and sometimes arbitrary guidelines. I have supported what he's done to protect our vulnerable populations but we have failed those unemployed and the businesses on our main streets that may now stay closed for good. I am concerned many people are fearful of getting needed screenings for health issues such as breast cancer, other cancer, heart issues and chronic illnesses. We cannot be delaying these any longer or we will have a new non-COVID health care crisis that will cost us more if we don't intervene early. My peers in the General Assembly from both parties have expressed a desire to help our state navigate this time in our history. To date, Speaker Madigan and Gov. Pritzker have refused to call us into legislative session to weigh in.
Q. What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
A. Term limits on legislative leaders. No more legislative double dipping with lobbyists. Increase transparency on lobbyists disclosures. Legislative Inspector General should have the power to start his/her own investigations, no more pre-approvals from a legislative board. I have repeatedly called for hearings and action on these items and others that are of grave concern to our process. The recent ComEd revelations are proof positive that Illinois citizens have been cheated out of fair and honest legislative deliberation.
Q. Do you support calls for criminal justice reform and law enforcement changes proposed by local Black Lives Matter groups?
A. I support reforms such as expansion of body worn cameras and maintaining a national use of force database. I have been working and discussing with members of the Legislative Black Caucus on what steps need to be taken to both protect our vulnerable and move forward. I remain open and engaged in the continuing dialogue.
Q. Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A. I have called for Speaker Madigan to resign from his leadership positions and co-sponsored legislation on this issue. I will NOT support him for a new term as Speaker. I did not vote for him in the past. Over three decades as Speaker is long enough. I call on all those running for Illinois House seats to be unequivocal on their answer to this question so voters know where the candidates all stand.
Q. How would you rate the governor's handling of the COVID-19 crisis? Does the legislature need to have more input and influence in establishing rules and policies related to stemming the spread of the disease? What have you done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A. As stated above, I have supported many of the steps our Governor has taken to protect our most vulnerable. However in some areas he has failed to be as proactive as I, and my constituents, would like. Unemployment claims have been troublesome for families dependent on that support to feed themselves. Business owners and employers who have plans to reopen safely have been denied the opportunity to do so. And his sometimes arbitrary rules should be based on more thorough rules and not change with the frequency we've seen in some areas. Our Governor's early actions prevented a more widespread outbreak through good and quick early decisions. However, in the past six months we have not had a single legislative hearing on oversight for what best practices should be in place. It is not a partisan issue, the Illinois House is the voice of the people and they should give voice to where we head from here.
Q. Regardless of whether the federal government provides assistance, what is the impact of the pandemic on the state's economic outlook and what immediate and long-term actions should be taken to address it? Would you support increasing taxes to pay for COVID-19 response or to make up for lost revenue related to COVID-19?
A. Increasing taxes in a time of recession is not the answer. As we saw in the last Great Recession in 2008-09 the impact of government spending and reduced taxation led us to recovery. We cannot sit back and wait for a federal bailout, we need to be engaged in finding solutions today and rely on the brilliant minds here in Illinois to help guide us. I trust the people in our state to help get us there. Our budget was out of balance by at least $3 billion before COVID. The budget passed by the democratic majority this spring was out of whack by nearly $7 billion -- hoping on a federal bailout. Hope is NOT a strategy. Taxing an already depressed household income stream will not move us forward in the direction I think we all would like to proceed.
Q. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A. I have been a supporter of environmental movements such as removing microplastics from our water sources. There are few areas of our planet that haven't been impacted by human activity. If we look at the devastation in the waste floating in the Pacific Ocean or the 250 boat Chinese fishing fleets devastating our oceans, humans have had an impact with little regard for the next generation. We have collectively not been good stewards of our planet and I'm glad we are moving in the direction of preservation. I look forward to the day when solar power is more prevalent and accessible. Powering battery-powered vehicles is key but as we saw last winter, we cannot forsake the need for baseline power in the coldest of winters and the hottest of summer days. The announced closure of Byron and Dresden carbon neutral nuclear plants will impact where Illinois is able to move forward, we get 50% of our power from nuclear. I look forward to the discussion on our next generation power infrastructure.