WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Legislature

  With less than a week remaining in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session, advocates are still working to double the state's tax credit for the working poor.

Advocates say the Earned Income Tax Credit is more effective at lifting people out of poverty than welfare or raising the minimum wage.

More than 900,000 Illinois workers receive the state's version of the EITC, which is currently worth 10 percent of the federal version of the credit.

Universities in Illinois may soon get the chance to research industrial hemp.  HB5085 is weaving it's way through the legislature.Lee Strubinger reports.

The Illinois Farm Bureau has been pushing the idea.  But hemp was banned in the 1970’s and labeled a controlled substance, as it is related to marijuana.

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is wading deeper into the debate over whether Illinois ought to extend a higher income tax rate. He's still refusing to say how he would manage the state budget.

The Rauner campaign says it's making robo-calls to voters in seven House districts. These are key Democrats in the budget debate — most have previously taken positions against the higher tax rate.

  A group of lawmakers granted themselves subpoena power Tuesday, to further an investigation into an anti-violence program favored by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Brian Mackey looks at whether it's necessary — or just for show.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was rushed out in fall 2010, as Quinn was up for election.

Minimum Wage Hike Would Be Costly For WIU

May 6, 2014
401(K)2012 / Flickr Creative Commons

Nearly a quarter of the student body works part-time, up to 20 hours a week, for the university. The majority of those students make $8.25 an hour, the current minimum wage in Illinois.

  Even as a lawsuit could nullify them, the state board of elections has begun a tedious — but necessary — task of preparing a pair of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The two citizen initiatives aim to strip lawmakers of the power to draw their own maps and to limit their terms in office.

A dozen-or-so workers sit at tables at the board of elections building in Springfield.

A court is being asked to prevent any aspect of Illinois' pension overhaul from taking effect, until it's decided whether the law is constitutional. A motion was filed Friday in Sangamon County Court.

  A legislative committee Wednesday voted to authorize spending $100 million to lure Barack Obama's presidential library to Chicago ... for the second time.

Before he became President, Barack Obama served as an Illinois state senator and a U.S. senator. He worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and taught at the University of Chicago law school.

All reasons he might locate his presidential library and museum in Illinois.

But New York and Hawaii are also in the running.

The Illinois House will take the lead on whether Illinois keeps its 5 percent income tax. It's scheduled to roll back at the end of this year unless legislators take action.

It's happened in the past. The Illinois Senate will pass a controversial measure -- like a tax hike -- only for it to languish in the House.

Not this time.

Senate President John Cullerton says the Senate will vote on the tax question if and only if it first passes the House.

 Two major Democratic initiatives are still short the votes needed to pass, at least in the House, as the General Assembly heads into the final stretch of its spring session.

    

How to deal with Illinois' income tax rate is arguably the biggest issue looming over Illinois politics.

Illinois legislators will vote a second time on a plan to spend $100 million to help lure Barack Obama's Presidential Library and Museum to Chicago, following a controversy.

A lesson in politics: Whichever party is in charge can often use the rules to its advantage. Like last week, when the Obama library proposal passed out of a Democratic-controlled House committee with nine votes ... even though only five representatives were there. Republicans had skipped the hearing, and many say they're opposed to spending the money given Illinois' financial situation.

  House Speaker Michael Madigan says there is "strong support" in the chamber for a hike in Illinois' minimum wage. That's one of the big issues in the governor's race.

Businesses don't like it, but a plan to raise Illinois' minimum wage from $8.25, to $10.65 an hour, is before the General Assembly.

Advocates continue to try to drum up the necessary votes.

Shankar S. / Flickr Creative Commons

Illinois lawmakers are considering ending the state’s ban on Sunday automobile sales.

A new report (PDF) says Illinois' pension overhaul will save less money than advertised. Some politicians are trying to make hay out of that. But it might not be such a big deal.

The pension vote came with promises of big savings — $160 billion. Then, after it was already law, a new analysis of the bill said, well, maybe we'll save $145 billion.

This latest report puts savings even lower, at $137 billion.

One of the top Democrats in the Illinois legislature is calling for a "millionaire's tax."

Reducing the Number of State Laws Not So Simple

Mar 16, 2014

The name “lawmaker” implies someone who helps pass laws.  But some who serve in the role are critical of that part of the job description.

Proposed Tax on Sugar-Laden Drinks

Feb 20, 2014

As Illinois' healthcare costs expand, lawmakers are considering an unusual way to save money: a tax on sugary drinks.

Illinois legislators will return to Springfield this week.  It will be their first meeting this year.

The 2013 session of the Illinois General Assembly will more likely be remembered for what was not accomplished than for what was done.

Pension Reform Moves Ahead in Illinois

May 9, 2013

The Illinois Senate has approved an overhaul of the state's pension systems.  

Illinois lawmakers began November with an election that solidified Democratic majorities and they will finish the month by returning to the Capitol. 

Their annual fall meetings are called veto sessions because lawmakers are supposed to consider legislation the governor rejected or changed.  Those could include statewide regulation of plastic bags and a plan to let cancer treatment centers reject job applicants who smoke.

No pension legislation moved through the Illinois General Assembly during Friday's special legislative session.

Democrats pushed along a plan to cut pension benefits for  state elected politicians and no one else, but opponents -- including Representative Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) -- called the proposal disingenuous.

"I am not going to vote for this. I think it's a farce," said Senger.

"I think we're basically coming out and saying we're doing something and we're absolutely not, and it's a real disservice for those who live in this state."

Rich Egger

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's office is touting a one-page analysis claiming higher education will suffer if lawmakers fail to address Illinois' pension problem.

In the so-called study, Quinn's budget office estimates that state funding of higher education will steadily decline over the next five years.

The projections show more money would be needed to pay for university and community college employees' pensions, which would leave less for schools and scholarships for needy students.

Illinois lawmakers worked 90 minutes overtime to complete work on the new state budget. But they still have not addressed concerns with the state's pension system.

The Budget

The  Democratic budget imposes cuts throughout state government. But Republicans say the high spending levels mean the temporary income tax increase will have to be made permanent.

Democrats were attacked from within, too.

Democratic Senator Kimberly Lightford railed against what she said is too little money for higher education.

More than 1,000 child care providers, home health care workers and others opposed to human service funding cuts rallied in Springfield on May 15.

 One of the protesters is Faith Arnold, who is a childcare provider. She said 95% of the families she serves rely on state subsidies. She said uncertainty over state money is having an impact on those who run child care operations.

Senator Anticipates Medicaid Cuts

Apr 10, 2012

State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) says everything is on the table when it comes reforming Medicaid in Illinois.

Governor Pat Quinn proposed a $2.7-billion dollar cut to the program in his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. 

Sullivan told a crowd of 50 during a town hall meeting in Hamilton that some savings can be found through the scaling back of programs and the elimination of waste and fraud.

Illinois legislators face more bad budget news. 

A report from Chicago's Civic Federation said the massive backlog of unpaid bills is about to get much worse.

Illinois is expected to owe more than $9 billion by this summer. The figure is expected to continue rising and could hit nearly $35 billion within five years.

Civic Federation president Laurence Msall said the state must  act quickly.

Pages