Grant Wehrli, Illinois House 41st District Republican nominee profile
His top priorities include lowering property taxes, improving Illinois’ Department of Employment Security and raising pay for caregivers of developmentally disabled people.
Running for: State Representative, 41st District
Political party affiliation:Republican
Political/civic background: I am a lifelong resident of Naperville and a product of District 203 schools. Prior to my election to the Illinois House of Representatives in November of 2014, I served on the Naperville City Council from 2005-2015. I also previously served as the Chairman of the Naperville Planning Commission, Naperville Development Partnership, Naperville Riverwalk Commission, Naper Settlement Museum Board, Community Concert Center Board and the Naperville Education Foundation. I was seated in the House of Representatives in January of 2015, and in 2018 I was elevated to the position of Assistant Minority Leader, where I serve as part of the nine-member House Republican Leadership Team. I currently serve as the minority spokesperson for the House Labor & Commerce, and Cities & Villages Committees, and as a member of the Executive, Appropriations-Capital, Appropriations-General Service, Public Utilities, Mental Health and Special Investigating Committees, and on the Local Government, Business and Industry Regulations, Commerce and Innovation, Job Growth, Preservation and Training, Minority/Disadvantage Analysis, Wage Policy and Study, and Workforce Development Subcommittees.
Occupation: State Representative
Education: I attended the Florida Institute of Technology and Southern Illinois University, where I studied Aviation Management and Aviation Flight.
Campaign website: Grant4Illinois.com
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Grant Wehrli submitted the following responses:
1.The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done?Please be specific.
The annual budget process, when done in accordance with Illinois law and the state’s Constitution, begins with an approved revenue estimate. Despite this mandate, the Illinois General Assembly has not adopted a formal revenue estimate since before I took office. But even without a revenue estimate, legislators knew they would be facing a significant revenue shortfall for FY21 due to COVID-19’s impact on the state economy. Even though Deputy Governor Dan Hynes directed state agencies to find 6.5% in reductions in preparation for FY21 budget discussions, that work was not done. At a time when states all around Illinois found ways to cut costs, Illinois budgeteers actually brought forward the largest budget in our state’s history.I did not support the budget because I believe budgets should be balanced on existing revenues and should not rely on massive borrowing and expectations of a federal bailout. While it is too late to adopt a responsible budget for FY21, we can start now to plan for FY22. Agency directors need to start now and do a thorough audit of their departments and find efficiencies, eliminate duplicative services/jobs, reduce membership on boards and commissions, and find a minimum of 6% to 8% in reductions. Zero based budgeting should also be utilized as a mechanism for cutting out waste. I would also recommend a legislative review of all new programs added over the last few years, and zero out programs that do not have a direct benefit to life and safety for Illinoisans. One example would be the new law that directs the Comptroller to put $50 in an account for every new baby born in our state. We simply cannot afford programs like that, as well-intentioned as they may be.
2. What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?
I would give Governor Pritzker a “C” for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. In the initial response period, I was supportive of the Governor’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure adequate hospital space and equipment for those who fall seriously ill with the virus. I still support many of the preventative measures he has put in place. However, there are two areas where I strongly oppose the Governor’s approach. His decision to allow big box stores to remain open while forcing small mom and pop businesses that sell the same merchandise lacked common sense and decimated small business owners. If you can social distance at Walmart, you can social distance at the local family owned convenience store. That’s why I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 5796, the Fair Business Treatment Act, a measure that would treat all businesses the same during a health crisis. I am also opposed to the Governor’s refusal to seek legislative input on coronavirus response decisions. Our three co-equal branches of government were put in place to prevent the concentration of powers the Governor has bestowed upon himself. We are the lawmakers. He is the executive branch. We are the ones who should be setting policy. We live in the communities and have the greatest understanding of local differences and unique circumstances. His “go it alone” approach flies contrary to how our system of government is supposed to work.
3. In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis,legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?
Over the last few years Illinois has been a leader in criminal justice reform. However, I believe there remains much to be done to ensure the safety of those living in our communities and also for police officers themselves. In conversations with local police personnel, many have expressed an interest in heightened training in a variety of areas. I fully support the prohibition of bad cops leaving one department only to be hired at a different department. This bill in the past was known as the “Bad Cop” bill. This bill would make it difficult if not impossible for a police officer fired from one department for cause from being hired on in a different department. As mental health issues become more prevalent in many communities, our law enforcement personnel would benefit from additional training to help handle these often volatile situations.
4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
I am not opposed to police wearing body cameras. However, for Springfield to mandate that all police must wear body cameras without providing funding for such a mandate would be troublesome. Many local units of government simply could not afford such a mandate.
5. Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?
I was among the first members of the General Assembly to ask Mike Madigan to resign as Speaker of the House. The culture of corruption that exists in Illinois has been built over decades with Mike Madigan serving as House Speaker. As Public Official A, he is at the epicenter of the federal investigation into political corruption in our state. House Republicans currently have 59 different ethics reform bills that have been blocked from consideration by the Democrats who control the flow of bills in Springfield. People need to know that at the same time influential Democrats were being indicted on serious charges or being implicated, as Speaker Madigan was, in elaborate pay-to-play schemes, legislation was already pending that would address the exact areas of concern. Some of them I authored myself. Just some of the pending bills would ban the use of red-light cameras statewide, ban legislators from also serving as paid lobbyists, and increase criminal penalties for those who violate ethics laws. I believe blame for the ongoing corruption can be extended to every House member who has voted to keep Mike Madigan in the role as Speaker. People should follow the money and look at who is funding candidates. My opponent has already accepted hundreds of thousands from campaign committees controlled by Madigan. That money comes with strings. In exchange for funding her campaign, she will be expected to return the favor by voting to keep Mike Madigan in power next year. Voters have all the power here. If they want to get rid of Mike Madigan, they need to stop electing people who are beholden to him and will vote for him as Speaker.
6. Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.
In response to the cancer cluster near the Sterigenics plant in nearby Willowbrook, I was Chief House Co-sponsor of SB1852. This law reduces allowable ethylene oxide emissions at sterilization facilities to rates that ensure air quality levels are 99.9% chemical-free. It also sets limits for how close sterilization facilities can be from schools and parks, and requires notice be provided to the residents, schools, hospitals and local government in the event that elevated ethylene oxide emission levels are detected.
Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 2135 This new law removes the statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual assault cases. Through this new law, victims of rape can recover and seek criminal justice against their perpetrator in the timeframe that works best for them.
Chief Sponsor of HB0418 This law addresses a key pension loophole that allows police chiefs to earn two pensions. I continued this work through my sponsorship of HB 3566, which would end the practice of “double dipping” for fire chiefs.
In addition to the passage of these bills that address environmental concerns, women’s issues and pension abuses, I am proud of the work I have done for the developmentally disabled community. I have assembled a Developmentally Disabled Task Force, which meets quarterly to discuss legislative solutions to challenges these individuals and families face, and I have also been a leading voice on the issues of ethics reform, property tax relief, and financial responsibility.
7. Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.
Property taxes continue to be a significant problem, and my annual legislative agenda always includes bills that would reduce this burden for property owners. 2) The Illinois Department of Employment Security continues to fail the residents of the 41st District and the State of Illinois. My office continues to receive calls daily from people who still cannot get their unemployment benefits owed to them. I have asked many times for the Governor to do whatever it takes to remedy this situation so that people who were put out of work due to COVID-19 can get the benefits they are owed. I believe we need public hearings into the widespread failings at IDES. 3)I believe those who care for the developmentally disabled are grossly underpaid and have filed legislation to increase their pay.
8.What are your other top legislative priorities? My legislative agenda always focuses on property tax relief, ethics reform, environmental protection, and ensuring a non-discriminatory work environment for all Illinoisans. A new priority this year relates to the failings at IDES and how that broken system can be fixed.
9.What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain. I am opposed to the graduated income tax because I do not believe the leaders of this state have earned the trust that comes with the loosely-worded Constitutional Amendment effort. In the early 70’s our tollroads were supposed to become free. We were told by Springfield politicians that the lottery was supposed to fund schools.In 2011 we were told that the tax hike was needed and would only be temporary. Springfield has a long history of bamboozling taxpayers and this is more of the same. Passage of the graduated income tax will also allow legislators to start taxing retirement income. State Treasurer Michael Frerichs has already said publicly that they need the graduated income tax so they can tax retirement income.
10.Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?Responsible budgeting and living within our means is the key. Efforts outlined in #1 are additional steps that would help address this issue. Pension reform is also important.
11.Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is? Absolutely not. One of the good things our state has going for it is that we do not tax retirement income. As outmigration continues to be a big problem here, our elderly tend to remain in Illinois because we do not tax their retirement income.
12.What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?I believe local control is very important. I also will continue to reduce and/eliminate unfunded mandates so that schools can make decisions locally that are in the best interest of their unique demographics. The new school funding formula needs time to provide data as to its effectiveness.I supported the new formula as it should provide for improved educational outcomes across our entire state.
13.Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?While the Second Amendment is a Constitutional right, as legislators we have an obligation to help ensure that guns do not fall into the hands of those who are legally prohibited from gun ownership. This includes strong laws against bad actors who sell guns improperly and strengthening penalties for “straw purchasing” of guns.
14.Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain. I support term limits. Term limits are especially needed for positions of leadership within the four caucuses and for statewide office holders. I will not vote for House Rules that do not include term limits for House leadership.
15.Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?I have sponsored legislation to end gerrymandering every year I have been in office. Gerrymandering undermines our system of democracy because it allows lawmakers to draw boundaries that protect incumbents from their party. The drawing of legislative maps should be taken out of the hands of politicians all together. Gerrymandering is wrong in Democrat-controlled states and it is wrong in Republican-controlled states.
16.The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?While I voted in favor of this bill, I view it as an extremely weak bill that fails to address some of this state’s most glaring ethical issues. Through SB 1639, legislators can still work as paid lobbyists while holding a seat in the General Assembly. Stronger bills (see # 5 above) were available for hearings, but rather than taking a bold approach to address real ethical problems, the majority party brought this weak measure forward. I was extremely disappointed that this was the bill they brought forward while much stronger House Republican bills were blocked.
17.When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?Data privacy is a serious concern but remains a Federal issue.Having a patchwork of fifty sets of regulations to follow would make enforcement of any state regulation almost impossible and may lead to certain services or apps being unavailable in Illinois.
18.The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?The cost of an Illinois college education has become so expensive it is unaffordable for most families. When students can obtain a degree cheaper in a neighboring state, we often lose these residents forever because they do not return to Illinois to enter the workforce. We must take steps to control tuition costs so that our students choose to stay in-state for college.The ballooning pension costs are crowding out funding for direct educational costs. Meaningful pension reform would go a long way in controlling education costs at all levels.
19.What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment? I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. This bill seeks to increase jobs and economic development be increasing clean energy production in Illinois. While this bill needs greater refinements before a floor vote, I support moving Illinois to a greater path of greater energy efficiency. also served as a Chief Co-Sponsor of PA 101-0023, which permanently closed Sterigenics in Willowbrook after it was exposed that they had released a carcinogen into the community for decades, and as a Chief Co-Sponsor of PA 101-0171, which provides new regulations for coal ash, a toxic byproduct of coal burning. Additionally, I have sponsored and co-sponsored recycling and composting initiatives that increase access to electronics recycling, increased research into the spread of microplastics to drinking water, require a greater use of food scrap compost in road projects and improve sustainability by requiring state agencies to have a food donation policy for excess food products. I have also had success in sponsoring and co-sponsoring bills relating to conservation and wildlife, including measures that provide funding for new public-private partnerships to care for natural lands, prevent municipalities from prohibiting milkweed, protect pollinators and promotes pollinator planting at large solar fields.
20.What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.Judge Winfred G. Knoch, United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (Senior Judge-Deceased).Judge Knoch gave a commencement speech at St. Procopius, now Benedictine University in Lisle and in his address he said “Any town worth living in is worth doing something for.” Now what I admire about this quote is he doesn’t go on to say what that “something” is. Instead he leaves it up to the individual to decide how to better their community. Work in the way that best suits you to better your town through a non-profit, government, education, coaching, etc. is sound advice. Judge Knoch is also my Grandfather.
21.What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
I do not watch a lot of television. Instead I spend my free time outdoors as much as possible. I also utilize free time enjoying a good book or working in my woodshop.