Running for: State Representative 64th District
Political party affiliation: Republican
Current State Representative
- Property Tax Relief and Reform Task Force
Lake County Board Member 2012-2018
- Chairman of Planning Building and Zoning Committee
- Government Reform Implementation Committee
- Law & Judicial Committee
- Health and Community Services
- Rules Committee
- Ethics and Oversight
- Storm Water Management Commission Alternate
- Northwest Wholesale Policy Advisory Board Alternate
Lake County Forest Preserve District Board 2012-2018
- Land Acquisition Committee
- Planning Committee
Other Past & Present Organizations:
- YCC Youth Conservation Corps Board Member, Board of Directors
- University of Illinois Extension Advisory Council Vice Chair
- Round Lake Area Chamber of Commerce
- Fox Lake, Richmond, Spring Grove Chamber of Commerce
- McHenry Chamber of Commerce
- Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerve
- Lake Villa & Lindenhurst Chamber Commerce
- Lake Villa Township Lions Club
- Lake Villa Historical Society
- B.E.S.T Bringing Everyone’s Strengths Together
- Lake County Farm Bureau (1984-present)
- Lindenhurst Kiwanis Club
- University of Illinois Extension Advisory Council
- Busy Brains Children’s Museum Board of Directors
- American Aid Society of German Descendants
Occupation: Licensed Electrician/Carpenter/ General Contractor
Education: Lake Villa Grade Schools, BJ Hooper, Pleviak, Palombi, High School St Johns Military Academy
Campaign website: Weber64.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. Tom Weber 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.
With businesses forced to close during the pandemic, the state is losing revenue we can’t afford to lose—on top of our already massive backlog of debt. We need to adopt an economic recovery plan that supports our business community, and is one that ensures they can open and continue to operate safely. This plan is something that requires legislative input, and should be debated and voted on Springfield.
As a staunch supporter of fiscal reform, we also need to cut spending to avoid any tax increases on hardworking Illinois residents. Any increases to our already heavy tax burden will only force more of our businesses out of Illinois.
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?
The coronavirus pandemic has been an extremely difficult time not only for Illinois, but the entire nation. While responding to this public health crisis has been no easy feat, there have been some serious issues I have had with the Governor’s handling of this pandemic. My biggest issue being his decision to act alone in making serious decisions that have impacted Illinois families and businesses. The legislature needed to be involved in the decision making process throughout this pandemic. The last 5 months have been extremely difficult for our state and the communities that make up Illinois. By involving lawmakers from the beginning, like calling a special session in Springfield to debate and vote on the best response to this crisis, I believe our state could have had a more cohesive response, especially one where all communities felt their voices heard.
From the beginning, I have supported a localized, regional approach. Illinois is a diverse state, and the 64th District is not the same as even our neighboring districts. This pandemic has devastated the business community, especially small local businesses that are the heart of our community here in Lake and McHenry Counties. The fact that big box stores could be open and selling items that smaller businesses sell, but were forced to close their doors was a huge disservice to our small business community and local economy. Moving forward, the legislature needs to be convened to debate how best to move Illinois out of this public health crisis and toward economic recovery. There is no reason the legislature cannot be consulted on key issues that impact the lives of Illinois residents, families, and businesses statewide.
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?
It depends on what those reforms would include. While we can learn from our neighboring states, we also need to do what’s best for Illinois. I will always support efforts to improve public safety. At the same time, I also support our police community, who work tirelessly to serve and protect our residents. With that being said, I believe reforms to increase training for our police force is something that could not only benefit police officers but also Illinois residents and public’s safety at large.
4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
I support the use of Body Cameras for our law enforcement officers, however, there needs to be clear cut guidelines for how and when they are recording. Personal privacy has become an issue in some departments which have implemented body cameras. That being said, I supported their use while on the Lake County Board and I support them now. This is a great way to ensure the safety of both Illinoisians and law enforcement.
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?
Michael Madigan must resign. Illinois residents are fed up with the continued corruption in our state and the inaction of the legislature to address it. Illinoisans deserve better. It’s time to put an end to these self-dealing politicians who create an even greater lack of trust in our Government.
In the greater scope of ethics reform, we need term limits to stop out of touch career politicians from garnering power and we need to implement enhanced disclosure forms for politicians.
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 April of 2019, one of the communities I represent, Crystal Lake, was rocked by the death of an innocent 5-year old boy named AJ Freund. AJ and his family, like thousands of others, had previous interaction with DCFS. Despite these interactions and due to systemic problems within the agency, AJ’s voice will never again be heard. I feel there is a need for a top to bottom over hall of DCFS and that there needs to be local oversite. This is why I filed AJ’s Law HB5281 which would require the sharing of information with local law enforcement and give local law enforcement the ability to perform an independent investigation into abuse allegations. 123 children, including AJ, perished during 2019 because of the systemic failures at DCFS
Another issue I worked on was the transition from Youth in Care to Youth Managed Care. Many serious problems were found during this transition: childrens’ medical files lost, gaps in necessary care, families receiving wrong information and more. We have more than 17,000 youth in our foster care system and it is our obligation to ensure their health and wellbeing is protected. Democrat Representative Andrade and I worked together to file HR0830, which asked the governor to postpone the transition until we worked out these problems.
I have also personally written to the Governor to support the many concerned foster parents, as well as the at-risk youth, I represent in the 64th House District. Not only in regards to the transition to Youth Managed Care but also requesting increased home safety inspections for our at-risk youth who have had previous contact with the Department of Children and Family Services. With school and daycare closures caused by Covid 19 it was a huge concern that incidents of abuse would increase during this stressful period.
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.
My district is comprised of Lake and McHenry Counties. These are the two highest taxed counties in our state. Our district cannot afford to pay any more taxes. I have and will continue to support real property tax relief efforts for residents.
The lack of transportation and services for seniors and disabled also need to be improved. While working to eliminate costs, we can’t eliminate necessary services that are vital to the health and wellbeing of senior citizens in our community.
Due to the past flooding in the 64th District, water retention areas are another top concern to protect the community from future flooding damages. Providing for the creation and upkeep of these retention areas, monitoring water levels and additional prevention tactics are essential to homeowners and business owners.
8. What are your other top legislative priorities?
Ethics reform will remain my top priority until it is accomplished in the General Assembly. This is something that could be adopted should it become a priority for the Democrat majority in the House. Until we have these needed reforms in place, self-serving politicians will continue to take advantage of the current loopholes in our laws. We can adopt tighter ethics laws to help prevent corruption from infiltrating our statehouse, and I will back those necessary laws.
Property tax and pension reform are additional legislative priorities. For property taxes, reform measures haven’t been adequately addressed in the House. I will push for serious action, not more talk, like the Democrat controlled Property Tax Relief Task Force which proved to be a failure. Some proposals for reform I will support include unfunded mandate relief, increased transparency, consolidation and resource sharing among local governments.
9. What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I do not support the graduated income tax. By authorizing a change to our constitution and removing the flat tax guarantee, there is no guarantee that higher taxes won’t be levied on Illinois residents in the future, no matter their tax bracket. There will never be enough wealthy people to support the Democrats’ appetite for spending. This is incredibly dangerous for our state, especially with the continued pattern of outmigration. This tax will drive more families and job creators from our state.
Our current flat tax is a fair tax, where everyone pays the same rate. Making more division between people based on income is not the answer. The Governor’s proposed rates are not codified, and once Democrats realize they need more money to spend they will be able to change rates and brackets to whatever they want with a simple majority vote. This should frighten every middle-class family.
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?
We need to cut unnecessary and out of control spending. Righting our state’s fiscal ship will always be important to securing the financial future of our state. Pension reform, cutting the cost of government, and consolidation efforts are three ideas that can help reduce overhead costs. There is room to make our government more efficient but still effective.
11. Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
No, I don’t support taxing retirement incomes of any Illinoisans. We have made promises to senior citizens and they have made retirement decisions based on those promises. We don’t need more taxes, we need to reduce spending.
12. What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
We need to focus on the whole picture, education from early childhood through highschool and bridging the gap between highschool and college. At the earliest stages, I think increasing “kindergarten readiness” is critical. Investing in early childhood education is key to providing students with the necessary tools they need to succeed throughout their education—as well as ensuring our state’s own positive return on investment. If we continue to invest in this aspect of education, it will allow students to build on that early success and reap more benefits in our larger education system.
Also I believe we need to have increased programs for those who are handicapped and for those with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, Dyslexia, processing deficits, etc. Oftentimes these children are very bright but get left behind. With the wide range of diversity in how people learn, we need to make sure we have diverse programs to build a strong foundation before entering higher education.
13. Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
As an elected official, ensuring the public safety of my constituents will always be a top priority. Mental health is an enormous issue that is very rarely addressed. Many of the mental health issues also involve drug or alcohol abuse. We need to work with law enforcement and our local communities to not only bring awareness to these problems but address them. One way we can do that is by reducing the sale and trafficking of illegal drugs. I have attended and hosted many events to try and bring awareness to the opioid epidemic in our state. This is a problem that affects all walks of life and we need to make a serious effort to stop it.
I believe that this is a concern that can be addressed both by the state and locally. I am committed to having conversations in Springfield, with police, local elected officials, and the larger community to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep the 64th District as safe as possible.
14. Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
We need term limits especially when it comes to leadership in Springfield. We see time and time again these self-dealing politicians garner power and favor from those around them. Self-serving politicians have no place in Illinois government. Term limits can help prevent the favoritism, corruption and backroom deals that have become all too common in our statehouse by long serving career politicians.
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?
We need an independent fair map commission to stop the gerrymandering of districts to favor one party over the other. I was a member of the Government Reform and Implementation Committee on the Lake County Board. When I left the committee was actively working to implement a “Fair Map” process for the county board. Illinois needs to take the lead and pass a fair map amendment. If you look at many districts in our state, especially in the 64th District, you must scratch your head wondering how they came up with the borders. The fair mapping process needs to have defined guidelines,be a non-partisan decision, and make sense. I wholeheartedly support a fair map process.
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?
I voted in favor of SB1639 last fall. However, this is just one measure. We must go much further to adopt more comprehensive ethics reform. Any elected official should be prohibited from lobbying. In terms of larger ethics reform, we also need enhanced statements of economic interest from elected officials to determine any conflicts of interest and an independent fair map commission.
I have supported the call for a special session on ethics reform. If the Governor would convene that, ethics reform could be brought up in the legislature—and passed. We can’t afford to waste any more time. Illinois residents deserve far better.
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?
Unfortunately, due to the digital nature of our day to day lives, we have opened ourselves up to potential opportunities for identity theft. I have hosted an identity theft prevention seminar to educate residents in my district—especially senior citizens who are most often victims of this fraud—on how best to protect themselves. Beyond educating Illinois residents, I believe the legislature could take further steps for prevention, which start with our own state agencies. A few months ago, the Illinois Department of Employment Security faced a data breach that exposed Illinois residents’ social security numbers and personal information. Ensuring our own state databases are secure is an essential first step to preventing identity theft and fraud.
For the private sector, I would support clearer company disclosures as to how companies would utilize consumer data. Companies need to make it absolutely clear how your information is being used and it should not be an automatic assumption that that information is theirs to sell.
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?
Much of our problems start at the administration. Illinois colleges and universities continue to prioritize administrators over students. We need to implement reforms and put an end to these bloated bureaucracies and the exorbitant compensation. This is causing student tuition to skyrocket. A 2015 report by the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus concluded: “Much of this [increase in tuition and fee] revenue growth has been used to support an increasingly larger bureaucracy and excessive administrative salaries.” This needs to change so that every Illinois student has the opportunity and finances to afford an education here in our state rather than look for opportunities elsewhere. Hard decisions will have to be made. 10 years ago pension benefits made up 20% of the budget, 10 years later 53% of the 2017 $4.1 billion dollar higher education budget goes to pensions. We need to look into why these universities are hiring administrators and staff at over 50% faster rate than hiring professors. We need pension and benefit reform and address the size of these administrations.
19. What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
The Fox River and Chain O’Lakes is a huge part of my district. Not only for its natural beauty but also for the tourism it brings into our districts. Over $150 Million dollars of tourism is generated yearly by people from all around to enjoy our parks, forest preserves and waterways. Unfortunately, where there is water there is flooding and we have had more than our share. I have spoken with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fox Waterway Agency and others in the area about our eroding shorelines, the junk and debris that enters the system, runoff from farm fields, and other problems created by flooding which directly impacts our waters. It is important to monitor the water levels here but we also need to watch the rain that happens north of us which runs into the Fox River. I would like to see more shoreline stabilization projects, possibly catch basins for the silt and debris entering the system, collaboration with our neighbors in Wisconsin to address the problems, form a working group to look at alternatives such as water reclamation areas and other ways to take excess water to help with flooding and address the environmental issues caused by runoff.
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.
Ronald Reagan is my favorite all time political figure from Illinois and one of the best presidents we ever had. I always admired how he could light up a room with his quick wit but also be able to speak to people in a way that they could understand. Favorite quote: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
21. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
I really enjoy watching America’s Got Talent. It is amazing to see how creative and talented people from different parts of the country and all walks of life are. Most importantly to see how they can push themselves to be better and then fans like me are able to cheer for those they really like to win. It is a great example of how big of heart Americans have especially when supporting an underdog.