Charles N. Wheeler III

Commentator

The director of the Public Affairs Reporting (PAR) graduate program is Professor Charles N. Wheeler III,  a veteran newsman who came to the University of Illinois at Springfield following a 24-year career at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wheeler covered state government and politics for the Sun-Times since 1970, when he covered the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention. For the last 19 years of his Sun-Times tenure, Wheeler was assigned to the newspaper’s Statehouse bureau. During that time, he was elected to 16 consecutive one-year terms as president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association and served for many years on the PAR program and admissions committees.

Since 1984, he has written a monthly column for Illinois Issues magazine, which has won five Capitolbeat awards for magazine commentary/analysis. In 2006, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association inducted him into The Lincoln League of Journalists, which honors men and women who have provided exemplary service to other journalists and to daily newspapers published in Illinois. In 2013, he was chosen as the Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois University.  He is also a regular on the panel for State Week, WUIS' weekly political analysis program that airs on public radio stations across Illinois.

Before joining the Sun-Times in 1969, Wheeler served more than three years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN, majoring in English, and received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Wheeler draws on the talents of many UIS faculty with expertise in such fields as public budgeting, political science, and communication, as well as professional journalists and state officials, to present students with a well-rounded program to bridge the academic and professional areas.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

This week's discussion includes the fallout over Governor Bruce Rauner's cuts to social services and House Speaker Michael Madigan's new budget oversight panel.  Paris Schutz, political reporter for WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" joins us for the program.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This week Rahm Emanuel was re-elected Mayor of Chicago, which (like the state itself) is facing a huge budget deficit.   Also, Governor Rauner declared the Illinois Supreme Court part of a "corrupt" political system.   WBEZ's Lauren Chooljian joins the panel for discussion of these and other topics on this edition of the program.

Tammy Duckworth

Much of the focus of this week's political news centered on Washington D.C.  U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mark Kirk.   And with the upcoming retirement of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, there are questions whether Senator Dick Durbin will continue as Minority Whip after 2016.  Also, the latest on beleaguered former Congressman Aaron Schock.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel to discuss those and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly this week approved a fix for Illinois short-term budget problems, but deeper issues remain. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock took his final vote in Congress and gave a farewell address. Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell joins the panel to discuss that and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

Host Bernie Schoenburg (SJ-R) and guests Brian Mackey, Hannah Meisel (WILL/Illinois Public Media) and Charlie Wheeler (UIS) discuss Bruce Rauner's State of the State address.

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

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.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Property taxes are excessively high and oppressive and the legislature should do something about it.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, explaining his call for a property tax freeze, whatever that means?

Lame duck Gov. Pat Quinn in his budget address last spring, urging lawmakers to send every homeowner a $500 refund check?

Good guess, but nope.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is Illinois still a “blue” state?

Will Mike Madigan work with a Republican governor?

Those were among the “insightful” questions being posed by national pundits and talking heads after Bruce Rauner’s solid victory last month over Gov. Pat Quinn in one of the country’s most closely-watched, bitterly contested gubernatorial contests.

Folks here at home know the answers, of course: clearly yes, in both cases.

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.

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.

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.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Unprecedented.

An often overused term, prone  to hyperbole, but a spot-on summary of last month's votes  for the 98th General Assembly, for never before in Illinois history has one political party captured veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers in the same general election.

Democrats did so, winning 40 Senate seats — the party's most ever — and 71 House seats, leaving shell-shocked Republicans to wonder if anyone caught the number of the bus that hit them.

Is Mike Madigan the Darth Vader of Illinois government, a sort of Dark Lord responsible for all the woes besetting the Prairie State, from its lowered bond rating to its mountain of unpaid bills, maybe even this summer’s devastating drought?

That’s the narrative Republican leaders hope will persuade Illinois voters on November 6 to support GOP candidates up and down the ballot, but most importantly for the Illinois General Assembly.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Could it have been the scorching, record-setting heat besetting Illinois in July? Or maybe fevered anticipation of the chance to renew his downstate bona fides by cutting the ribbon to open the Illinois State Fair?

Perhaps it was, plain and simple, a paranormal phenomenon. Whatever the explanation, Gov. Pat Quinn sure looked like he was channeling his disgraced predecessor on a number of high-profile, mid-summer occasions.

Here’s a sampler of Quinn actions that smack of Rod Blagojevich:

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“All newspaper editorial writers ever do,” the late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Murray Kempton once observed, “is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.”

Whether Illinois legislators are wounded may be a matter of debate, but they certainly were the targets of a heavy barrage of scorn and disdain from the state’s media mavens in the aftermath of the spring session’s turmoil.

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Ever the showman, Rod Blagojevich sought the spotlight with a basketful of grandiose proposals, half-baked notions and — unfortunately for the former governor — ill-conceived criminal schemes. 

A partial accounting might include:

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Declaring a state goal “that all people be free from poverty,” Illinois four years ago created a special panel charged with developing a strategic plan to reduce extreme poverty in Illinois by 50 percent or more by 2015.

The timing could not have been worse.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Should Illinois have a graduated income tax?

The Illinois legislature certainly thought so, and so did the governor, a little more than eight decades ago. Facing decreased revenues as spending pressures mounted, a special session of the Depression-era 57th General Assembly approved a graduated tax on net incomes, and Gov. Louis L. Emmerson, a Republican, signed the measure into law February 22, 1932.

Within months, however, the Illinois Supreme Court killed the new income tax, ruling that its graduated rates violated the revenue provisions of the 1870 Constitution.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Might they be amenable to casting politically difficult votes on contentious issues such as budget cuts or Medicaid and pension reforms if legislative leaders and Gov. Pat Quinn can hammer out compromises?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the first election following legislative redistricting would offer voters a wide array of choices, as veteran lawmakers retire and droves of ambitious wannabes scramble to capture voters’ allegiance in newly minted districts.

But conventional wisdom would be wrong, at least for the 2012 election season.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Gov. Pat Quinn readies the FY 2013 state budget he is to unveil in a few weeks, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Illinois is in really bad shape, a financial basket case about ready to go belly up.

The lamentations are led by the usual suspects, Republicans trying to gain partisan advantage for this year's elections and hyperventilating editorial writers who need to stop, take a deep breath and get a grip on reality.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Has the time come for Illinois to reconsider the manner in which it selects its judges?

The question seems timely: A campaign finance reform task force is weighing public financing for judicial elections, in part to counter a generally held public view that campaign contributions affect courtroom decisions. Meanwhile, dozens of candidates for judicial posts — from the Illinois Supreme Court to circuit court — are scurrying to raise money for next year’s primary and general elections. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Since the outgoing General Assembly increased personal and corporate income tax rates in January, lawmakers have been at great pains to show how business-friendly they really are.

In the spring session, for example, the legislature approved a compromise workers’ compensation measure that sponsors said would save business up to $700 million, mostly by reducing payments to doctors and hospitals that treat injured workers.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The litany was depressingly familiar: overcrowded, understaffed, with limited access to medical and psychiatric treatment, rehabilitative services, education and jobs for inmates.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the last couple of years, Illinois has adopted an impressive — by historical standards, anyway — array of ethics reforms.

Campaign contribution limits, a ban on pay-to-play contracting, new conflict-of-interest and economic disclosure requirements for members of state boards and commissions, independent procurement officers and purchasing monitors, stronger whistle-blower protection, tighter revolving door prohibitions and more. It’s a lengthy list, tailored closely to the kind of questionable behavior that has one former governor in federal prison and another on his way.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Slowly but steadily, Illinois’ fiscal fortunes appear to be on the road to recovery after two years of falling revenues and unprecedented budget deficits.

The prognosis — one of guarded optimism — emerges from a review of recent reports from the legislature’s fiscal agency and from state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. The encouraging signs include:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is legislative productivity becoming a trend in Illinois?

Building on the impressive record compiled by the 96th General Assembly during its two-year tenure that ended in January, current lawmakers fashioned a budget based on expected revenues, significantly changed teacher tenure and evaluation rules and revamped the state’s workers’ compensation system — all in the first five months of the 97th General Assembly.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

For the typical Illinois legislator, long-range planning usually means thinking about the next election. Struggling this spring to fashion a new budget, though, lawmakers found themselves worrying about the one after that, too.

The reason for the altered perspective? A dawning realization that serious belt-tightening would be needed now to avoid either a fiscal meltdown or a vote to raise taxes three budget years hence.

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