Statehouse

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  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.

Emilian Robert Vicol

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

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.

The stepson of a state lawmaker from Peoria has been shot dead.

The (Peoria) Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1t6ts30 ) that 22-year-old Derrick Booth Jr. was pronounced dead early Saturday at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

He was the stepson of Democratic Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth and the son of Manual Academy basketball coach Derrick Booth Sr.

The newspaper reports that the victim was found on the porch of a home with a gunshot wound to the chest.

It was the second homicide in the city this year.

WUIS

The Illinois Legislature has adjourned until Monday.  
The Senate wrapped up early Friday afternoon, shortly after the House completed its work for the week.  
Legislators in both chambers are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Monday for the final week of the spring session.  

Brian Mackey / WUIS

  The Illinois House overwhelmingly rejected a so-called "doomsday budget" Friday — one that does not rely on extending 2011's income tax hike. It would have imposed deep cuts across Illinois government.

It was the budget that few legislators — Democrat or Republican — actually wanted to pass. It would have slashed education and other government services.

But the budget did not pass. In fact, only five lawmakers voted for the stripped-down budget, including Rep. Fred Crespo, from Hoffman Estates.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

No agreement so far on a state budget, while debate continues on whether or not to make the temporary state income tax permanent.

Wikimedia Commons

  While the state's budget for next year is still in flux, Republicans in the Illinois Senate say they have a new plan that would fully fund public schools. They say it's something that would help schools now, unlike a competing Democratic proposal that's still building support.

Illinois has been shortchanging schools for several years. Instead of funding them at the full amount required by law, they've been cutting — it's at 89 percent this year. That's because mandatory spending on things like health care and pensions has been choking out other priorities.

House Speaker Michael Madigan wants voters to weigh in on his so-called "millionaires' tax" at the November elections.

The referendum would ask if income greater than a million dollars should be taxed an additional three percent, with the money going to schools.

Earlier this year, Madigan tried to put this before voters as a constitutional amendment, but he says there wasn't enough support in the House.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

  The Illinois House is advancing legislation intended to get more people saving for retirement. Advocates say "nudging" workers into a savings program could help keep them out of poverty in retirement.

The so-called Secure Choice retirement savings program is an idea of the conservative Heritage Foundation. The plan would require all companies with more than 25 employees to automatically enroll workers in a state-supervised retirement program.

Rep. Jim Durkin, R- Western Springs
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A day after House Democrats said they're unwilling to extend Illinois' higher income tax rate, government observers are trying to figure out what happens next. Top Democrats say they're moving forward on an austerity budget, but things in the Statehouse are rarely as clear as they seem.

House Speaker Michael Madigan took a closed-door poll of his Democratic lawmakers, and found just 34 of the 60 votes needed to make the current income tax rate permanent.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Democrats in the Illinois House on Wednesday handed a significant defeat to Governor Pat Quinn. Fewer than half are willing to go along with his push to extend a higher income tax rate. That could mean significant cuts in state spending. Brian Mackey reports on how Democrats backed themselves into this corner, and where they go from here.

Quinn has for two months been asking lawmakers to make 2011’s temporary income tax hike permanent.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers are going back to the drawing board on a state spending plan. Although Gov. Pat Quinn and top Democrats have been pushing for an extension of a higher income tax rate, House Speaker Michael Madigan says there isn't enough support for that.

  With Republicans uniformly opposed to keeping Illinois income tax rate at 5 percent -- instead of letting it drop as scheduled at the end of the year — both Quinn and Madigan have been working to get 60 Democratic members of the House on board.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, House Democrats met behind closed doors.

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Officials say dispensaries in Illinois could start providing medical marijuana early next year . Prospective patients say that's not soon enough.

At a public hearing in Springfield, those seeking marijuana for medical needs argued the rule making process needs to speed up.   Illinois lawmakers voted last year to allow cannabis for certain health conditions.  Since then, the state has been planning how the program will work.
Robert Morgan, an attorney with the Illinois Department of Public Health, says the agency wants to get it right.

Tony Arnold/WBEZ

  The Repubican Party’s longshot candidate for Illinois attorney general is throwing punches at the incumbent Democrat, Lisa Madigan. Paul Schimpf says Madigan is a political insider incapable of going after corruption.

ilga.gov

A federal judge won't postpone an Illinois lawmaker's bribery
trial so he can finish out the legislative session in Springfield.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

  The organization that coordinates Illinois high school sports and activities was under scrutiny Tuesday in Springfield. Lawmakers want the Illinois High School Association to be more transparent, but the not-for-profit group is pushing back.

While Illinois high schools are not required to become IHSA members, the organization does run the major statewide competitions.

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The question of whether to extend Illinois' temporary income tax increase has dominated the spring legislative session. On Tuesday, Republicans said the question ought to be put to voters this fall.

Illinois voters will face a long list of referenda on the November ballot: on voting rights and crime victims rights, and possibly the minimum wage, term limits for lawmakers and legislative district map-making.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn appealed directly to Democrats in the Illinois House Monday evening. He’s struggling to win support for his plan to extend Illinois’ higher income tax rate.

The governor appeared at a closed meeting of the Illinois House Democratic caucus.

Quinn is trying to win the support of the 60 Democrats required to make Illinois’ 5 percent income-tax rate permanent — instead of letting it decline by more than a percentage point as scheduled at the end of the year. Quinn warns without the higher tax rate, there will have to be drastic cuts in state services.

WUIS

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is criticizing House Democrats for adopting budget measures without an approved plan to pay for them.  

Rauner talked to reporters in Northbrook Monday as Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was set to meet with lawmakers in Springfield. The Chicago Sun-Times reports Rauner calls this year's budget process ``playing political games'' and ``showing a lack of leadership''  
 Last week, the House approved budget measures contingent on an income tax increase extension. It rolls back in January, creating a $1.8 billion hole.  

Wikimedia commons

  Heroin use has surged in Illinois, especially in the collar counties around Chicago. State officials are considering whether new laws are needed to stop the spread of heroin and treat addiction more effectively.

The state's heroin task force met in Springfield to hear testimony from experts on addiction.

Dr. Daniel Angres, a psychiatrist with suburban-based Presence Health, says heroin use has become more prolific because the stigma has faded.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield Monday to begin the final two weeks of the spring legislative session. The big question remains whether Democratic leaders can convince enough rank-and-file lawmakers ... to make a higher income tax rate permanent.

Although Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton, and House Speaker Michael Madigan all support making the temporary 5-percent income tax rate permanent — Madigan in particular has had a hard time getting fellow House Democrats to go along.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

  Taxes have been in the spotlight at the state Capitol this spring, most visibly the fate of the state's income tax rates. But another tax plan, floated by Governor Pat Quinn, is also attracting ire of Republicans and economists alike.

Governor Quinn's plan for the Illinois budget calls for extending the state's 5-percent income tax rate, instead of allowing it roll back.

It's coupled with a $500 property tax rebate for every homeowner in Illinois.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week the Illinois House passed a spending bill that surpasses projected state revenues, leading to more debate over allowing the temporary income tax to expire.  Also, judicial action has put the state's pension overhaul on hold.

  Plans to raise the minimum wage in Illinois have struggled all spring. Instead of letting the proposal fail in the General Assembly, Democratic leaders want to put it to voters. The question on the November ballot would be non-binding.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he wants to ask voters a simple question: "Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults, over age 18, be raised to $10 an hour by January first, 2015?"

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How much you'll pay in state taxes next year remains an open question, even as the Illinois House Thursday approved dozens of spending bills, that rely on a permanently higher tax rate. It sets the stage for a budget battle, just weeks before legislators are set to adjourn for the summer.

The Illinois House convened at 8 o’clock Thursday morning, and spent most of a very long day on the budget. Lawmakers began with a debate on funding Illinois' public education system, giving schools a slight increase over this year.

Brian Mackey / WUIS

Republicans are not happy with the budget pushed through the Illinois House Thursday by Democrats. But Democrats counter that Republicans aren't offering any proposals of their own.

House Republicans denounced Democrats for passing an out-of-balance budget that relies on a tax increase.

Democrats, however, say Republicans only want to criticize, and haven't put forth a plan of their own.

Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) says he searched for the Republican budget everywhere. He even asked his dog.

ILGA.gov

Illinois' pension overhaul might be on hold, but credit ratings agencies say they're not concerned. A Sangamon County judge Wednesday ruled that reductions to public employees' retirement benefits will not go into effect next month, as planned.                                                  

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois unemployment rate is at its lowest mark in five years. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is touting the news, but the state still lags the nation.       

Governor Quinn was exuberant during a stop at a manufacturing company in the Chicago suburbs.

“Unemployment is at it's lowest rate in the last 5 and a half years and we're very happy to say that Illinois' economy is on a roll,” Quinn said.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. 

Temporary Hike Costing Average Taxpayer $1,100 This Year

May 15, 2014
flickr/scottjwaldron

The temporary income tax hike Illinois lawmakers are considering extending is costing the typical taxpayer about $1,100 more this year, according to calculations by the Governor's Office of Management and
Budget.
 
The 67 percent increase on individuals approved in 2011 is producing about $6.6 billion in additional revenue for the state this year. Democrats promised when they raised the individual rate from 3 percent to 5 percent that it would roll back to 3.75 percent in January 2015. Now Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative

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