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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Dreaming of the Illiana: Two Governors Are Trying to Build Expressway from South Suburbs to Indiana

Proposed Illiana expressway routes
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois and Indiana lawmakers resurrected a century-old plan this year for a highway to connect Chicago’s south suburbs with the Hoosier State. Now Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels say they are trying to put together a deal to finally build the Illiana Expressway, promising it would create thousands of new jobs and relief for other congested highways.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Freedom of Information Grapples with Privacy in Public Employee Job Evaluations

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

I have to confess that I’m conflicted. I’ve spent my career in journalism as an avid supporter — some might say rabid — of open government and freedom of information, but the proposed law regarding public employee performance reviews has me walking both sides of the fence.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

State of the State: Our Representation Should Mirror Our Population in its Diversity

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The idea that a judicial candidate whose background is counter to the white male majority would bring a different perspective to the bench became a prevalent topic of discussion during the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. But the concept that public servants with different backgrounds strengthen discourse is not new, or without merit. While the nation and the state of Illinois have made great strides in choosing female candidates for positions of power, the statistics are still dismal.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Wed September 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Public Opinion Appears to Have Shifted in the Capital Punishment Debate

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Ten years after former Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois, death penalty opponents say efforts to repeal capital punishment here are gaining momentum.

The guarded optimism is fueled in part by recent polling data they believe shows public support for capital punishment eroding, as Illinoisans reflect on a decade without executions.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu July 1, 2010

Nuclear Renaissance: Illinois Lawmakers Consider Lifting a 23-Year-Old Moratorium on New Reactors

Dry casks containing radioactive waste
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

After the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters, public support for nuclear power dropped precipitously. But in recent years, increased demand for electricity and concerns over carbon emissions that contribute to global warming have led to a so-called nuclear renaissance.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu July 1, 2010

State of the State: Quinn's Plastic Bag Tax Might Have Cut Down on Use

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Facing an unprecedented deficit, Illinois politicians pulling together a state budget with little public or legislative support for an income tax increase had to get creative when looking for new revenue sources. 

One tax proposal could have helped Illinois make a dent in a waste problem that is getting attention across the country and overseas. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu July 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Unbalanced Budgets Come Despite Consitutional Mandate

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Does the Illinois Constitution mandate that the state budget be balanced each year?

One’s initial inclination is to respond, “Yes, of course, it says so in the Finance Article.” But a quick check of the actual record in the four decades since the charter was ratified suggests the answer is a bit less straightforward.

The question gained new interest a few weeks ago after House Speaker Michael Madigan acknowledged to reporters that the spending plan newly minted by legislative Democrats was not balanced.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2010

Question & Answer: The Governor's Race

Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady stand in stark contrast. Quinn is backing a 1 percentage point increase in the state income tax, while Brady is calling for $1 billion in tax cuts. Quinn happily describes himself as “progressive” while Brady’s voting record paints a legislator who is about as conservative on social issues as one can get. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Fewer Voters Are Willing to Make Sacrifices for the Good of All

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The other day, a Springfield radio talk show host related his recent visit to a new public high school in Waterloo. He told listeners that his other job, working in traffic safety for state government, had taken him to the former high school in the Metro East city several times over the years. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2010

State of the State: Lawmakers Should Use Caution When Considering Job Creation Plans

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady have made it clear that they see job creation as the No. 1 issue in their race for the governor’s office. In a state with an unemployment rate of more than 11 percent, it is pretty safe to say that joblessness is a top concern of many voters, too. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue June 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Despite Differences Over State Budget, Lawmakers from Both Sides Worked Together

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The fiscal fiasco otherwise known as state budget-making has a lot of Illinoisans searching for descriptive terms harsh enough to fully express their disdain for state legislators.

Lawmakers left Springfield a few weeks ago without accomplishing the only chore they really needed to do before their self-imposed May 7 adjournment deadline — fashion a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat May 1, 2010

Wanted - Leadership: A True Leader Has the Courage to Do What's Best for Society in the Long Term

Illinoisans who have led
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Our impeached past governor, Rod Blagojevich, is best-known for being a TV punch line synonymous with corruption and bad hair. As he awaits his federal trial this summer on charges he schemed to sell President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat and used his state-given power to shill for campaign donations, Blagojevich drags our state’s reputation with him from The Late Show with David Letterman to The Celebrity Apprentice.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat May 1, 2010

Question & Answer: Stanley Ikenberry

Stanley Ikenberry
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The interim president of the University of Illinois was asked by the Board of Trustees to fill the vacancy left by the September resignation of B. Joseph White, who left amidst a scandal over clout-driven hiring at the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus. Ikenberry had initially served as president of UIUC from 1979 through 1995. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat May 1, 2010

On Taxation: Taxing Services - An Old Idea Re-emerges in the Face of Economic Peril

The Department of Revenue estimates that service taxes could bring in anywhere from $3.7 billion to $6.5 billion. But those figures include medical and legal services — areas that are often excluded for social reasons and have strong lobbying organizations.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

  The idea of the state charging a sales tax on a whole range of services, such as auto repairs, dry cleaning and haircuts, was a nonstarter in the late 1980s. Brought up again in recent years, it’s been brushed aside in the legislature session after session — until last spring when Illinois faced a record-breaking budget shortfall of more than $11 billion.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Sat May 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Authors Argue Time Has Come for Public Subsidization of Journalism

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that for their experiment in self-government to succeed, citizens of the new nation must be armed with information, so they can make decisions about where it is headed. That’s why the First Amendment protects freedom of the press.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu April 1, 2010

The Accidental Celebrity: Patti Blagojevich's Family & Friends Rally as Her Husband's Trial Looms

Patti Blagojevich
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

News trucks with their bright lights clogged the street in front of the Blagojevich home as helicopters flew overhead.

Meanwhile, Patti’s brother, Richard Mell, noted that the street outside his bungalow was quiet. No one knew or cared where he lived. The Blagojevich girls — Amy, 12, and Annie, 5 — were coming for dinner to escape the media circus caused by their father’s arrest. “I made pot roast,” Richard says. “It was a nice warm environment.”

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu April 1, 2010

Video Poker: Controversial Funding Source Could Prove a Shaky Foundation for State's Capital Plan

Video Poker
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Last May, the Illinois General Assembly passed the state’s first capital construction program in 10 years. The National Conference of State Legislators called it the most comprehensive state-level job-creation plan in the country, and according to Gov. Pat Quinn, the program will generate 439,000 jobs in the next six years. To help pay for the $31 billion package, legislators voted to legalize video poker machines in thousands of bars, restaurants and truck stops throughout the state.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu April 1, 2010

Guest Essay: The Challenge of Tackling a 21st Centry Technological Issue with a 19th Century Process

Kevin McDermott
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

On September 2, 2006, bicyclist Matt Wilhelm, 25, was riding along state Route 130 near Urbana when a car struck him from behind. Wilhelm died six days later. The driver had drifted off the road while downloading ringtones to her cell phone.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu April 1, 2010

State of the State: One Man Tries to Do it All for Power Agency

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Auditor general findings that a state agency has no official budget, financial reports, formal planning process or even basic office supplies are a bit shocking. According to a recent state audit, the Illinois Power Agency has paid its bills late, collected fees late and turned in travel vouchers late since its creation two years ago. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Thu April 1, 2010

Ends and Means: Leaders Have Responded Abysmally to the State's Fiscal Crisis

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois faces its worst fiscal crisis in eight decades, a daunting challenge for the state’s purported leaders. So how have they responded?

In a word, abysmally. Indeed, the leadership deficit almost rivals the state’s dollar shortfall. Consider:

In his budget memo last month — at 21 minutes, too short and devoid of specifics to merit being called an address — Gov. Pat Quinn essentially punted.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon March 1, 2010

Unpaid Bills: The State's Inability - or Unwillingness - to Meet its Commitments is Simply Unfair

Southern Illinois pharmacy owner Tom Miller had to refinance his store to avoid bankruptcy while he waited on the state of Illinois to pay the money it owed him. “The state darn near destroyed us — destroyed me and almost destroyed other pharmacies,” he says.

Miller, also a Methodist minister, says his faith helped him through the financial turmoil. “We stayed in business only through the grace of God.” At one point Miller was waiting up to 270 days to be reimbursed for the Medicaid prescriptions he filled. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon March 1, 2010

Brady Wins GOP Governor Nomination: Margin was 193 votes; Dillard Concedes Primary Election

Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

Editor's note: This article was updated after vote totals were certified March 5. Please see the Illinois Issues blog for the latest information on the governor's race.

 

In the wee hours of February 3, as Republican state Sen. Bill Brady spoke to supporters and claimed victory as the party’s 2010 gubernatorial nominee, he compared himself to a coach.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon March 1, 2010

Editor's Note: People Are Suffering Mightily Because Our State Government is a Deadbeat

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

As a kid growing up in a small Midwestern town, I often overheard my father, who owned a local business, talk about his customers who didn’t pay their bills. There was a word he used, an epithet so repulsive that I decided early on I never wanted it applied to me.

Deadbeat.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon March 1, 2010

State of the State: Scandals Highlight the Need for Juvenile Justice Reform

Jamey Dunn
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just a few months ago, it looked as if the scandal surrounding the “Meritorious Good Time Push” prisoner-release program could cost Gov. Pat Quinn a win in the primary election. Under the program, exposed by the Associated Press in December, the Illinois Department of Corrections was awarding prisoners months of early release time for good behavior in the first few days of their sentences, thus returning some violent offenders to the streets after they spent just a few weeks behind bars.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon March 1, 2010

Ends and Means: The Latest, Never-Seen-Before Episode in the State's Storied Political History

Charles N. Wheeler III
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois State Board of Elections will meet soon to officially proclaim the results of last month’s primary, thus ending (maybe) the latest, never-seen-before episode in the state’s storied political history.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon February 1, 2010

The Pension Chasm: Analysts Project State Retirement Systems Need $131 Billion to Cover Benefits

Total liability $126.5 billion
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

To say Illinois faces a hole in funding its public employee pension systems is like saying the Grand Canyon is an impressive ravine or the Mindanao Trench a good-size gully.

Indeed, “hole” is hardly an appropriate word. “Abyss” and “chasm” come readily to mind, with “bottomless pit” not too far away.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon February 1, 2010

About Rich Miller: Newsletter Came Long Before Blogs, Yet Includes Analysis, Opinion, & Advice

Rich Miller is the founder, publisher, editor and sole reporter for the Capitol Fax political newsletter. He is pictured in his home office.
Credit Kevin McDermott / WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s a rainy December evening, and Rich Miller is still keyed up over the day’s top story when he arrives at the small, dark bar at Maldaner’s Restaurant in downtown Springfield. The founder, publisher, editor and sole reporter for the Capitol Fax political newsletter rejects the Jameson’s-and-soda that the bartender automatically offers. “Too early,’’ Miller declares — and he orders a Guinness instead. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon February 1, 2010

Illinois' Muslims: The Population of Islam Followers Here Has Grown Substantially

Friday juma prayer at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

In the darkened suburban Chicago theater, all eyes rested on a 34-year-old American Muslim storyteller with a Midwest accent. For the next hour, Arif Choudhury told poignant stories about growing up in a white American neighborhood with his Bangladeshi parents.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon February 1, 2010

Editor's Note: Other States Have Tackled the Issue of Political Fundraising

Dana Heupel
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

“Here are two important things in politics: One is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.’’ 

— Mark Hannah, presidential campaign manager for William McKinley in 1896.

That axiom immerses political candidates in a never-ending whirlpool of fundraising and sometimes prevents potentially qualified challengers from seeking elective office. It also can breed ethical concerns. Witness the plight of Illinois’ last two former governors: George Ryan is in prison; Rod Blagojevich is under indictment — both charged in political fundraising scandals.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon February 1, 2010

State of the State: Today's Leaders Could Learn from a Forward Thinker From Yesteryear

James Krohe Jr.
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

You would think that a governor who restored the state of Illinois’ low reputation for creditworthiness while creating stable conditions for economic growth might be looked to by our perplexed state leaders as a model, if not worshipped as a saint. But today, Gov. Thomas Ford is remembered, if at all, for his role in suppressing the Mormon War of the 1840s, not for suppressing the rebellion of the state’s creditors set off by the Panic of 1837. 

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