Charles N. Wheeler III

flickr/ rabiem22

Commentary — Might we be seeing light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it the headlamps of the ongoing train wreck that is Illinois, picking up speed? Such questions came to mind listening to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address last week.

Birthday cake
Will Clayton

The Illinois Constitution turns 45 on December 15. As the document reaches its birthday, Charlie Wheeler looks at the ways it modernized government. 

WSEC-TV Springfield. Host Bernie Schoenburg (SJR) and guests Jamey Dunn (IL Issues) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) discuss the latest on the IL State Budget.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

Govs. Dan Walker, left, and Bruce Rauner.
file / WUIS

If you follow state government long enough, you start to hear the same things over and over again. That holds even across four decades.

Last week, I produced an obituary for the late Gov. Dan Walker, who died at the age of 92. In listening to several of his speeches from 1975 and '76, I was struck by the similarities to the sorts of things we hear from politicians today — particularly Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Both of these men came in after unpopular tax hikes, and both downplayed their wealth with folksy images. So I'm asking the question: Are they essentially the same guy?

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Charlie Wheeler (UIS) and Patrick Yeagle (Illinois Times) discuss Bruce Rauner's actions so far as governor of Illinois. This week he will give the State of the State, his first speech as governor.

Host Jamey Dunn and guests Bob Gough (QuincyJournal.com) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) discuss the special session and special election legislation as well as Rauner's choice for comptroller, this week's inaugurations, and Gov. Pat Quinn's legacy.

Ugly Election Brings Home Need For Campaign Finance Reform

Nov 1, 2014
Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

That mighty “whoosh!” you’ll be hearing in a few days will be a collective sigh of relief from Illinoisans as one of the nastiest election seasons in recent memory blessedly draws to a close.

In the marquee event, of course, voters will decide the state’s next governor, choosing between Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees — oops, I mean Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn or Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, must have seen one too many campaign hit pieces — or opting for Libertarian Chad Grimm, standing in for “neither of the above.”

End And Means: Term Limits Wouldn't Shake Up Springfield

Oct 1, 2014
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

To hear the bluster of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and his lackeys among the state’s editorial writers and punditry class, the court decisions tossing his proposed initiative to impose term limits on lawmakers was a shocking slap in the face of Illinois citizens and a huge victory for the Dark Lord of Illinois politics, House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

While the fat lady may not yet have sung for the new law slashing pension benefits for public workers, she certainly seems to be warming up in the wings, courtesy of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"The biggest winners here in this session were the taxpayers, who were spared the extension of the income tax."

—Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno

 

With all due respect to the good senator from Lemont, Illinoisans may have won a Pyrrhic victory when lawmakers adjourned their spring session without voting to keep income tax rates at their current levels past their scheduled January 1 sunset.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois has some 6,500 units of local government — a great many more than any other state in the nation. A pattern of overlapping jurisdictions, pyramided taxing powers, fragmented public services and divided responsibility has pervaded Illinois and caused a complex and complicated tangle of governments at the local level.

Is this a recent observation from some academic think tank, offered as Illinoisans this month face paying the first installment of the property taxes that sustain most of the 6,500-plus governing bodies?

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the Illinois General Assembly girds for what everyone hopes will be the final month of its spring session, the spotlight is on a handful of high-profile issues, topped by crafting a budget for the 2015 Fiscal Year that starts July 1.

Key to budget-making, of course, is whether lawmakers heed Gov. Pat Quinn’s call for keeping in place current income tax rates, now scheduled to roll back on January 1. Allowing the rates to drop dramatically would lead to “extreme and radical cuts” in education and other core state services, the governor warned in his March budget address.

Host Jamey Dunn and guests Charlie Wheeler (UIS) and Patrick Yeagle (IL Times) discuss two constitutional amendments headed for the ballot: voting rights & victim rights, the death of Madigan's millionaire tax, Senator Manar's school funding proposal, and Rauner and his run in with Bill.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

  Guess what? 

State tax cuts don’t improve economic growth.

No, that’s not an April Fool’s Day zinger.

Rather, it’s the conclusion of a report issued last month by the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children, a nonpartisan advocacy organization for the state’s youngsters (Poor Finances, Uncertainty about Looming Revenue Collapse Threaten State Economy).

Host, Amanda Vinicky and guests Kent Redfield (UIS) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) analyze the Governor's Budget Address. Focusing on the proposal to increase income tax, property tax relief, and the millionaire's tax.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Once upon a time, a veteran political reporter asked a simple question of his cub sidekick. “Young man,” intoned the legendary newsman, “What do you think of the Illinois legislature?” The rookie answered with all the insight gained during a couple of weeks on the Statehouse beat. “I can’t believe I have to live in a state where the laws are made by such a bunch of bozos!” he declared indignantly. “Young man,” responded his mentor, “no matter what you may think of them, never forget that every one of them is here because the folks back home voted for them over anyone else.”

Host Jamey Dunn and guests Charlie Wheeler (UIS), Nicole Wilson (24/7 News), and Andy Maloney (Chicago Law Bulletin) analyze the recent Republican primary debate for Governor and discuss other primary issues, the budget, and upcoming bills.

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Charlie Wheeler (UIS), Bob Gough (Quincy Journal), and Andy Maloney (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin) discuss accusation being addressed quietly by treasurer Dan Rutherford.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

End and Means: Illinois Should Examine Its Revenue Structure

Feb 1, 2014
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Has the time come to overhaul Illinois’ venerable (outdated?) revenue structure?

The question is more than academic, given the daunting challenge for Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly to craft a balanced budget for next fiscal year with some $2 billion less in receipts due to the partial rollback of the 2011 income tax increase.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As 2014 dawns, the new year brings with it a personal milestone for yours truly — the start of my 31st year as an Illinois Issues columnist. Since January 1984, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my observations about Illinois government and politics with you, the magazine’s loyal readers, in more than 300 columns, by my reckoning.

So I thought some reflection might be in order, if you’ll bear with me, along the lines of the more things change, the more they stay the same, to quote the old French proverb.

End and Means: Crisis? Maybe Not. But the Red Flags Are Waving.

Dec 1, 2013
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Senate President John Cullerton a few weeks back said the state’s pension funding problems were not a crisis, the reaction was swift: shock and outrage that the Chicago Democrat might suggest that failure to slash public employee retirement benefits NOW would not mean the imminent demise of the Land of Lincoln.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.”

That refrain, oft-repeated at ballparks across the land in bygone days, may take on new meaning when voters go to the polls a year from now to elect a new Illinois House of Representatives.

With the deadline still weeks away for filing petitions to qualify for the March primary ballot, the House seems on pace to set a record for voluntary turnover in the first election after redistricting.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Officially, it’s “Sec. 18-8.05. Basis for apportionment of general State financial aid and supplemental general State aid to the common schools for the 1998-1999 and subsequent school years,” in the statute books.

More familiarly, it’s known simply as the “state aid formula.”

By either name, it’s the prescription by which the state doles out billions of dollars each year to public school districts across Illinois to help pay education costs for more than one million children from kindergarten through high school.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

After watching Illinois government and politics for more than 40 years, one might reasonably assume that he or she has seen it all.

One — or at least this one — would be wrong.

On returning home from the Wisconsin Northwoods, I discovered not one but two new cases that stretch the limits of belief — one an unprecedented abuse of gubernatorial power, the other an amazing display of legal treachery.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Everyone knows Illinois has the largest pension debt and worst credit rating in the nation, right? So obviously its elected officials, especially Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly, have to be absolute bozos, folks who should be sent packing at the earliest opportunity.

That’s been the clamor since lawmakers adjourned the spring session on May 31 without cutting pension benefits for public employees, a din raised particularly loudly by editorial boards, online commentators, and folks firing off angry (and often ill-informed) letters to the editor.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A few weeks ago, the University of Illinois Springfield celebrated its 42nd commencement, a joyous occasion for the more than 750 graduates who participated in the ceremony at Springfield’s downtown convention center.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

During this spring’s debate over same-sex marriage, a recurring theme among opponents has been the dire societal consequences they said would result from its legalization.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For someone with a penchant for stream-of-consciousness speechmaking, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address last month was notable for its laser-like focus on the need to address the state’s mounting pension debt, now approaching $100 billion.

The oft-repeated theme: Ever-mounting pension obligations are crowding out funding for education and other core services.

End and Means: Gov. Quinn's Speech Didn't Avoid Pension Subject

Mar 1, 2013
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Listening to lawmakers’ reaction and reading the pundits’ commentary after Gov. Pat Quinn delivered his State of the State speech a few weeks ago was even more entertaining than the governor’s 38-minute performance.

A random sampling, with sources not identified to spare any potential embarrassment:

Quinn “made a campaign speech,” complained various lawmakers, most but not all of them Republicans.

End and Means: General Assembly Ends its Term Quietly

Feb 1, 2013
Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This is the way the 97th General Assembly ended — not with a bang but a whimper. (With apologies to T.S. Eliot.)

When the outgoing legislature quit for good on January 8, its list of unfinished business was considerable, topped by its inability to agree on anything to help restore fiscal stability to the state’s retirement systems.

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