Statehouse

Campaign Caps Lifted
7:15 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Blagojevich's Arrest Anniversary: Reason To Celebrate?

Credit WBEZ

  It's been five years to the day since FBI agents arrived at then Governor Rod Blagojevich's house to arrest him on charges of corruption. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence, and for most Illinois politicians it's good riddance. Amanda Vinicky reports. 

Fresh off the General Assembly's passing a law to overhaul the state's pensions, I had the chance to catch up with House Speaker Michael Madigan:

VINICKY: "It's the five year anniversary of Blagojevich's arrest coming up ... any reaction, any ...

MADIGAN: "Yeah, we should … celebrate."

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State Week
2:32 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Listen To State Week - December 6, 2013

This week, a discussion of the changes made to the state's pension system.

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Court Challenge Ahead
7:12 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Pension Overhaul Signed Into Law

After the General Assembly passed the pension bill, Gov. Pat Quinn called a statehouse press conference, calling it a 'victory."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A major overhaul of Illinois' pensions is now law. Gov. Pat Quinn held a private bill-signing ceremony this afternoon in Chicago. A court challenge seeking to stop it from taking effect is certain.

The new law will cut state workers' and public school teachers' retirement benefits.

It also raises the retirement age; employees younger than 46 will have to work up to five years longer before they can retire. The savings from those changes are intended to rid Illinois of a long-festering budget issue: an unfunded pension liability that's grown to about $100 billion.

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Statehouse
11:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

CapitolView: Pension Reform Analysis

WUIS State Week host, Bill Wheelhouse, guests on the latest CapitolView regarding the pension reform passed in Illinois.

Statehouse
8:38 am
Thu December 5, 2013

After Pension Vote, Gov. Quinn Will Get His Back Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn is set to get about $74,000 in back pay now that Illinois lawmakers have finally approved a pension deal.  

The governor used his line-item veto power this summer when he halted legislators' salaries, saying they shouldn't get paid until they addressed the nearly $100 billion pensions crisis. He also stopped accepting his own paychecks.  
A judge disagreed with Quinn in September and the comptroller began issuing checks to lawmakers. But

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Statehouse
8:56 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

A Day After Passage, Pension Legislation Sent To Governor's Desk

A bill aimed at fixing Illinois' hundred billion pension crisis is before Gov. Pat Quinn.  
A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that the bill had been sent to Quinn.  
The move came a day after the Illinois General Assembly approved the bill that is estimated to save the state $160 billion over the next 30 years.  

The plan reduces benefits for current and retired public employees. Among other things, it also raises the retirement age on a sliding scale for some employees.  

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Pensions
7:22 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Pension Changes More Common Among Governments

Republican Leaders Sen. Christine Radogno (left) and Rep. Jim Durkin
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois is just the latest state to vote on legislation to overhaul public pension plans.   

Heather Kerrigan is a contributor with Governing Magazine.  She says this year alone, state and local governments around the country have proposed more than 1,000 pieces of legislation to shore up pensions.  And she says almost all of them face the same challenge. 

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Corrections
4:54 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

State Prison Locked Down Because of Illness

The state's Department of Corrections has locked down the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina after dozens of inmates started to show flu-like symptoms.  

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the department says the Level 1 lockdown means that no visitors are allowed at the facility and no inmates will be transferred.  

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Pensions
4:52 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Madigan: Courts Could Pick And Choose On Pension Plan

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan presents the conference committee report on Senate Bill 1, the legislation overhauling Illinois pensions. Madigan says "hopefully the Court will rule in favor of the constitutionality of the bill."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois legislators may have passed a pension overhaul, but unions representing teachers and public employees have vowed to sue to stop it from taking effect. If they're successful, that could force lawmakers to go back to the drawing board.

Lawmakers made preemptive efforts to fend off a legal challenge. The measure contains a statement that details the terrible condition of Illinois' finances and what lawmakers have tried to do about it -- a clear attempt to justify cutting pension benefits.

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Statehouse
1:16 am
Wed December 4, 2013

How They Finally Passed A Pension Overhaul

House Speaker Michael Madigan, right, forcefully argued for legislation to overhaul the state's pension systems.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly approved sweeping cuts to state employee pensions Tuesday. The move comes after years of stalemate over how to address a hundred-billion dollar liability — the worst-funded pension plans of any state.

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Tax Credits
11:32 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

ADM Unlikely To Get Tax Credit Before End Of Year

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is the sponsor of a Senate bill to give ADM a tax credit in exchange for creating new jobs in Chicago and Decatur, if the company moves its global headquarters from Decatur to Chicago.
Credit ilga.gov

While much of the attention was focused on pensions, state legislators yesterday also dealt with measures intended to get a trio of companies to call Illinois home. But they only got halfway there.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is shopping for a new world headquarters. The agribusiness giant may well choose Chicago; but it wants a tax break from Illinois, like in a measure approved by the Senate.

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Statehouse
5:56 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Blagojevich To Have Another Day In Court

Rod Blagojevich's lawyers laid out a final set of arguments in writing before they step before appellate judges next week to argue that the imprisoned ex-governor deserves a new trial.
 
The 33-page filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals repeats arguments made before, including that trial Judge James Zagel displayed bias against
Blagojevich. The brief was posted late Monday.
 
The defense and prosecution will get 30 minutes each to deliver oral arguments before a three-judge panel Dec. 13.
 

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Statehouse
5:52 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Sweeping Pension Changes Approved

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois General Assembly has approved sweeping changes to pensions for state employees. Governor Pat Quinn says he will sign the legislation. It's intended to fix the worst-funded state retirement system in the country.

Illinois is roughly $100 billion short of the money it promised to pay state employees, university workers, and public school teachers.

After years of debate, lawmakers finally agreed on a solution to the problem: cutting benefits, mainly by reducing the three-percent annual increase retirees have gotten on their pensions.

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Statehouse
5:00 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Recap Of Pension Vote With Brian Mackey

WUIS' Sean Crawford talks with Statehouse reporter Brian Mackey moments after state lawmakers voted to approve pension legislation. 

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Statehouse
12:32 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

'Suspicious' Powder Mailed To State Office

Credit wikimedia

Officials say Gov. Pat Quinn's constituent office in Springfield was evacuated after an envelope with a "suspicious substance" was found.  Testing, however, revealed the substance was baby powder.

The Governor's Office of Constituent Affairs is located near the state Capitol where lawmakers and others were gathered ahead of an expected pension vote.  

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says the envelope was received Tuesday, the office was evacuated and necessary precautions were taken.  

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Statehouse
10:34 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Madigan: Pension Plans Are "Too Rich"

Illinois' House Speaker told a bipartisan legislative committee that the state's pension systems are ``just too rich'' to be afforded in the future.  
Madigan is a Chicago Democrat and the state's longest-serving House Speaker. He says Tuesday that a $160 billion reform proposal was designed to keep long-term low-income workers in mind.

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Statehouse
9:43 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Unions Make Last Pitch To Derail Pension Measure

Union members rallied at the statehouse in January 2013.
Credit npr.org

Illinois unions are working to squelch a plan aimed at
solving the state's $100 billion pension problem hours before an expected vote.
 
Members of the ``We Are One Coalition'' representing major state unions told a
bipartisan legislative panel Tuesday morning that the $160 billion savings plan
is unfair to retirees.
 
Dan Montgomery of the Illinois Federation of Teachers says there is ``no
victory in a public policy that will not work.'' He says adjustments to cost of

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Pensions
7:10 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Today's Pension Vote Will Go, Procedure-Wise

The pension conference committee meets in Chicago over the summer.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

This morning, legislators on a special, bipartisan panel formed to reach a compromise on Illinois' pension situation will once again meet in Springfield. Already, most of the committee's members have signed off on a deal.  Beyond that, the measure's fate is uncertain.

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Pensions
6:21 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Strange Bedfellows Could Kill Leaders' Pension Deal

A Christmas tree and other holiday decorations bring a festive spirit to the capitol on Monday -- today the statehouse will be bustling during last-minute negotiations ahead of a landmark pension vote.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois legislators will be asked today (12/3) to take what many say could be the most important vote of their careers. They've been called back to Springfield to take up a measure that would drastically alter the state's retirement plans. Doing so would have obvious ramifications for state employees, teachers and university workers whose pensions are at stake. But the impact of a vote is far more widespread. What happens could also affect everything from the state's credit rating and Illinois' next budget, to the 2014 elections. The outcome is anything but certain.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Satellite TV Tax Could Help ADM, Office Depot

Credit ADM

Although pensions are atop the agenda Tuesday in Springfield, the Illinois General Assembly could consider a set of tax breaks for some of Illinois' biggest corporations.

Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland is moving its corporate headquarters, and wants a tax break to remain in Illinois, most likely Chicago. Office Depot, newly merged with OfficeMax, is deciding whether to put its combined headquarters in Florida or Naperville.

The deal would let the companies keep money they deduct from employee paychecks for Illinois taxes.

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Pensions
2:58 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Republican Hopefuls Split On Pension Overhaul

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, says the Senate should gather all of its members, and spend a couple of days hearing from experts, as well as from state workers whose pensions would be affected by pension changes.
Credit dillard.senategop.org

The four Republicans running for Illinois governor are taking diverging stances on the pension measure that's bringing the General Assembly back to Springfield tomorrow. The package drafted by the legislative leaders would cut state workers', teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

Whether there's enough support for the leaders' plan to pass is uncertain, but it will get Sen. Bill Brady's vote.

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Statehouse
4:42 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Pension Plan Advances To House And Senate

A bipartisan committee of lawmakers has approved a plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension problem. The measure now moves to the House and Senate for consideration.  

The Associated Press confirmed with six members of the 10-member panel that they had signed the measure Monday after arriving in Springfield for a special session.  
Leaders announced the plan last week. It comes nearly five months after a special committee was formed to tackle the problem.  

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Statehouse
1:14 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Senator Kirk Opposes State Pension Plan

Sen. Mark Kirk

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says a pension-reform deal under consideration in Springfield ``falls short of finding the savings needed to solve Illinois' fiscal crisis.''  

The Republican senator issued his statement Monday morning. The deal that legislative leaders announced last week could go to a vote in the Illinois General Assembly as early as Tuesday. Kirk says state lawmakers shouldn't pass a bill that he says lawmakers and voters haven't had time to read.  

Kirk says the proposal ``relies heavily on accounting gimmicks'' and doesn't prevent a permanent income tax hike.  

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Statehouse
5:57 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

Listen To State Week - November 29, 2013

This week, the candidate filing deadline for the gubernatorial primaries, and legislative leaders' plan to solve the state's pension crisis.

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Pensions
4:10 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

How Leaders Want To Overhaul Illinois Pensions

Details are out on what the leaders of Illinois' General Assembly want to do to the state's retirement systems. They've released an outline of their deal.

After years of debate about what to do about the $100 billion dollars of unfunded liability Illinois has racked up for its pension systems, legislative leaders announced on Wednesday they had agreed to a deal. But they were tight-lipped about what all it involved.

That information has now been spelled out in a one-page overview, a memo passed out to members of the House and Senate.

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Statehouse
2:22 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

Pension Legislation Details Released

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Earlier this week, legislative leaders announced a deal to bring a pension overhaul before the full chambers. It is estimated to save $160 billion over the next 30 years.  Illinois has the nation's most underfunded retirement systems.

On Friday, the leaders' staff sent around the memo below that highlights changes for public employee pensions.  Lawmakers are expected in Springfield to vote on legislation Tuesday, December 3.  Employee unions have already indicated opposition and if it passes, a legal challenge is likely.

PENSION REFORM PROPOSAL

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Pension Overhaul
4:49 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Leaders Reach Pension Deal; Now Drumming Up Votes

House Speaker Michael Madigan talked to reporters about pensions during the end of the spring legislative session; he and Senate President John Cullerton were at odds then over how to deal with the state's underfunded retirement systems.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The leaders of Illinois' General Assembly have reached a deal on pensions. But now they have to persuade legislators to go along with it. The House and Senate will meet in Springfield Tuesday (12/3) to debate the measure.

It's the first time the four leaders of the House and Senate have come together on a plan dealing with the state's pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation. Details are forthcoming, but House Speaker Michael Madigan came out of a meeting in Chicago saying it will save $160 billion.

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Statehouse
3:40 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

First Same Sex Marriage Has Occurred In Illinois

Credit Cook County Clerk's Office

Two Chicago women have become the first couple to take their vows under the new same-sex marriage law in Illinois.  
Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray married in a private ceremony Wednesday, just days after a judge agreed to expedite their wedding because of Gray's terminal illness.  

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Statehouse
1:03 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Pension Deal Reached; Vote Likely Next Week

Credit Wikimedia Commons

House Speaker Michael Madigan says the vote on a pension deal will be ``very difficult'' when lawmakers gather for a special session next week.  
Madigan spoke to reporters Wednesday after legislative leaders said they agreed on a proposal that will help solve Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis.  

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Election 2014
5:15 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Poll: It's Anyone's Governor's Race

Seven candidates filed for governor earlier this week: four Republicans (Treasurer Dan Rutherford, whose lieutenant governor pick, Steve Kim, is pictured on the far left; Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-HInsdale, who is on the top right; Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, on the bottom right; and Bruce Rauner) and two Democrats, Gov. Pat Quinn and Tio Hardiman, of Chicago.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Pat Quinn has been surpassed as the nation's least-liked governor, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling. Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania's Republican Gov., Tom Corbett, can now claim that title. But the new poll shows Quinn could still have a hard time holding on to his seat.

It was about this time last year, that numbers from Public Policy Polling showed Democrat Pat Quinn as the most unpopular governor in the country.

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