Keith R. Wheeler: 2022 candidate for Illinois House 83rd District
Office sought: Illinois House 83rd District
Occupation: Small business owner, state representative
Previous offices held: Current state representative for the 50th District; former Bristol Township Trustee
Q: What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
A: Independent maps are the most important step toward getting the legislature to be more responsive to voters. The current process of having the majority party draw the maps to the disadvantage of the minority party is going to forever create unbalanced government in the state of Illinois.
The budget process in Illinois is broken and needs to be replaced. In my time in the legislature, we have never prepared a budget that included both parties in a meaningful way. Democrats have ignored the required taxpayer-protection measure: adopting a revenue estimate which is a spending cap.
The people of Illinois are sick and tired of seeing politicians dragged away in handcuffs to be indicted. And they should be! Enough is enough. It's time for real ethics reform.
I've been supportive of term limits and have voted for, term limits for legislative leaders. This approach is crucial to prevent another Madigan-style situation from occurring again.
Q: Federal assistance has enabled the state to make important advances toward improving its budget. What will you do to ensure these advances continue when the federal aid is gone?
A: The huge federal aid that arrived after the pandemic has not solved Illinois' budget woes. We have seen a dramatic increase in spending to match the increased revenue, but that revenue is not sustainable. Don't be surprised when Democrats look for another tax increase when they don't want to cut this new level of spending in future years.
During the budget vote, I stood up and pointed to the $1.8 billion deficit in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund for our state that should have been paid with federal money. While my Democratic colleagues claimed we had a balanced budget, that fund was left in deficit which will result in benefit cuts to unemployed workers and tax increases to every employer in the State of Illinois -- even not-for-profits.
At some point, our state deserves an honest budget process that includes legislators from both parties and all corners of our state -- one that is based on the constitutional and legal approach which has been ignored for years.
Q: To what extent are you happy or unhappy with the evidence-based model for education funding now in place in Illinois? How would you define "adequate" state funding for Illinois schools and what will you do to promote that?
A: I was one of the Republican legislators who supported and voted for the evidence-based funding formula. It is important that our state finds a better balance in our approach for school funding and the EBF has been an important step in that direction. Our state's overreliance on property taxes causes great pain to families across our state and especially to seniors living on fixed incomes as well as to small businesses who could grow our economy.
The definition of "adequate" requires us to find the appropriate balance between making investments in our classrooms, protecting taxpayers, and building a great future for the State of Illinois. I support a periodic review of what the EBF target should be to provide adequate funding for a world-class education for all of Illinois' students. That discussion needs to include teachers, parents, administrators, business leaders, community activists, and anyone else who can provide guidance to our state's long-term investment in K-12 education.
Q: Do you believe elections in Illinois are free and fair? What changes, if any, are needed regarding election security and voter access?
A: Yes, I believe that elections in Illinois are free and fair. I am grateful for the hard work of our county clerks, our election judges, our poll watchers, the State Board of Elections and everyone involved in the election process. However, there are improvements that we could make. I filed HB3518, which is a bill that would clarify how we clean up our voter rolls as well as clarify how the clerks postelection results for the public -- especially regarding vote-by-mail ballots received after Election Day. It is our responsibility not only to keep the election process free and fair, but to also make it abundantly clear to those following the election results that the process treated them appropriately and with transparency.
Q: How well has Illinois responded to Supreme Court indications that it considers abortion, gay marriage and other social issues to be state, not federal, responsibilities? What if anything needs to be done in these areas and what would you do to make your vision come to pass?
A: Illinois is especially well-prepared for changes made by the United States Supreme Court that affect social
issues such as abortion and gay marriage. With statutes already on the books for these issues, there should be few, if any, changes seen by residents. Illinois' abortion laws remain among the most permissive in the nation, allowing abortion at virtually all stages of pregnancy. Last year, majority-party legislators repealed Illinois' Parental Notification of Abortion Law, revoking a parent's right to be notified if their minor child gets an abortion. I support parents' right to know about invasive medical procedures for their children, with exceptions for children who are victims of abuse. With gay marriage legal in Illinois prior to the SCOTUS ruling which applied to the whole country, same-sex couples in Illinois will still have marital options regardless of any further action by the court. That law should put same-sex couples at ease, and I have no desire to see that change.