News

Thousands of state employees are a step closer to receiving money they've been waiting on since 2011.

The Illinois House approved spending the approximately $63 million it'll take to pay workers raises they were guaranteed in their contracts, but which the state refused to hand over.

State Sen. Matt Murphy
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This is Past Due, a look at big picture budget issues facing Illinois. Lawmakers have returned from their spring break, and one topic is on everyone’s mind: the budget.

Democrats want more revenue, which would likely mean some version of a tax increase. Some Republicans say they would consider it, but they want business friendly reforms passed first. This week, you will hear Jamey Dunn chat with two senators who serve on budgeting committees, one a Democrat and one a Republican.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

A recent project combines the work of Springfield's most well-loved poet, the late Vachel Lindsay, with one of Springfield's favorite contemporary visual artists. A book titled, A Net to Snare the Moonlight collects over 15 children's poems by Lindsay and pairs them with artistic interpretations.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been traveling the state to promote his so-called "Turnaround Agenda." But don't expect the General Assembly to act on it right away.

It calls for sweeping changes to unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, limits on where lawsuits can be filed and the creation of right-to-work zones. Plus, a local freeze on property taxes, and a repeal of the state's Prevailing Wage Law.

A grocery trade site Brickmeetsclick  has an interesting preview of Aldi's new venture.

Take a read.

beech-nut.com

Beech-Nut Nutrition is recalling approximately  baby food products that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass,

The following product is subject to recall

  • 4-oz. glass jars containing “Stage 2 Beech-Nut CLASSICS sweet potato & chicken”

The product subject to recall bears the establishment number “P-68A” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The affected product expires in “DEC 2016” and includes product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821”. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.                        

Lincoln Tomb Criticized And Faces Setbacks

Apr 15, 2015

 The caretakers of Abraham Lincoln's tomb are on the defensive over an unflattering critique in National Geographic magazine and looming state budget cuts that could threaten management and maintenance of the Civil War president's final resting place.  

A ceremony in Springfield Wednesday to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 16th president's death comes at a time when Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed eliminating the state's Historic Preservation Agency, which manages sites including the tomb. He would fold it into another department.  

LinkedIn

Social service agencies are reeling from sudden budget cuts. More could be on the way.

Some Democrats say they were taken off guard when, two weeks after legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner passed a law to handle the budget through June, Rauner's administration said certain programs would be cut-off: Grants for a quit-smoking hotline, support for autistic kids, and funding for a teen after-school program -- all eliminated. In cases, workers have been laid off, and services discontinued.

African American legislators say the impoverished parts of the state will be most affected by budget cuts.

Dangerous and Draconian. The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus uses those words to explain $26 million Governor Bruce Rauner recently suspended in state grants.  He's proposed more cuts for next year.
 

Senator Kim Lightford says Rauner's cuts will be devastating in four main areas public safety, education, health and the economy. 

Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s ideas about how to change government-employee pensions are getting extra scrutiny in Springfield.

Rauner wants employees to be moved into less generous plans for future pension benefits.

So far, it’s just something he’s just talked about. Democrats who’ve long focused on pension issues say that needs to change.

Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston, is calling for an actuarial analysis. He also says the idea that legislation would be passed and make it through the inevitable court challenge anytime soon is a “fantasy."

When President Obama announced in late 2014 that he would work toward ending the embargo on trade with Cuba, it wasn’t just tourists perking up their ears. Midwest farmers and ranchers see communist Cuba as an untapped market for goods from the American Heartland.

One of those farmers is Paul Combs, a rice farmer from southeast Missouri. Cuba can be an important market for farmers like Combs, who already depend on exporting their products.

On this week's WUIS-SJR Business Report Tim Landis and Bill Wheelhouse chat about an impending decision regarding a hog farm in Menard County and an odd court appearance for a former area businessman:

 Some Lawmakers say that they believed certain programs had been protected under a budget deal recently struck with the governor to fund state services through the rest of the fiscal year. But Gov. Bruce Rauner froze several human services grants earlier this month — including support for people with autism.

Now a Senate budget committee is calling on members of the administration to explain the cuts. Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski, who chairs the committee, says the money should be restored.

Illinois General Assembly

 

Current state law prohibits people with felony records from working in a school, or volunteering, or even driving a truck that makes deliveries to a school. But a measure pending before the Illinois House of Representatives could change that.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy — a Chicago Democrat — sponsors the legislation.

"What we operate under now is based on the assumption that someone with a criminal history is always a criminal, and never eligible to return to productive society,” she says.

potter
Jaegar Moore / flickr.com/97408355@N06

Illinois has until recently paid for the cost of burial of its indigent dead. That changed on Good Friday, when the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner terminated funding for the program.

The $9 million loss could push the cost of impoverished decedents’ final arrangements onto their families, funeral homes or even counties. Funeral directors say the cut could “cause many problems” for the state, which is struggling to fund operations through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

flickr/JeffCovey

Heavy rains in the spring often lead to complaints in Springfield over water in basements.  This mostly happens in older areas of the community.

"Most of the system was never designed to be able to transport or convey 50 year storms.  it was more designed on a 5 or 10 year storm. That being said, there are places in the city that don't perform on a 5 or 10 year system either," said Sewer Engineer John Higginbotham with Springfield Public Works.

U.S. Department of Education

Illinois received $20 million from the federal government for expanding access to early childhood education.

Illinois currently enrolls 27 percent of its 4-year-olds in state-funded preschool for low-income families. Reyna Hernandez of the Illinois State Board of Education says it's hoping to expand that number with Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed increase of 25 million dollars to early childhood education.

Drew Gurian

Coming to the Homespun Republic Thursday, April 16 Cory Branan with special guest Tim Easton. Showtime is 8 pm. Tickets at www.bedrock66.com or at the door.

State of Illinois

This is The Players, your update on who's who in Illinois politics and what they're up to.

This week you'll hear Amanda Vinicky's conversation with the man who has power - as in, subpoena power - to really discover what Illinois' political players are doing: Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza.

capitol
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

Illinois legislators will return to Springfield this week after a two-week break. There's some suggestion it will have been their last hiatus for a while.

Legislators are set to spend much of the next seven weeks in session.

There's a lot to do: Gov. Bruce Rauner is pushing a massive agenda. He wants to overhaul the workers' compensation system, and to give municipalities the ability to rein in labor unions. Plus, there's dealing with a $6 billion deficit.

wikimedia commons

A proposal in the Illinois House that would require all state vehicles to be manufactured in North America sounds patriotic, but some groups say it would hurt Illinois businesses.

The Department of Transportation and the Illinois' Manufacturers Association are among those who oppose House Bill 3438. Randy Nehrt of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says this could actually hurt Illinois businesses, especially those that supply parts to car manufacturers in Mexico.

ilsymphony.org

UIS Ethnomusicologist Yona Stamatis gives us a preview of this weekend's live performance by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra: "Firey Fiddlin'".

ISO Conductor Laureate Kenneth Kiesler along with soloist Jeremy Kittel and ISO concertmaster Violetta Todorova talk about the program, which includes Evan Chambers' Concerto for Fiddle and Violin, Brahms' pastoral Third Symphony, and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.

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.

Tornado Kills One in Northern Illinois

Apr 10, 2015
Gilbert Sebenste NIU/WNIJ

One person was killed and an unknown number injured when a massive tornado tore a path across northern Illinois Thursday. The area hit hardest is the small DeKalb county town of Fairdale, near the intersection of I-39 and Highway 72.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he choose to award business tax credits to uphold Illinois' trustworthiness with companies, but the Republican's critics are calling it "beyond the pale."

Social service organizations are still reeling from the unexpected news they received a week ago that Gov. Rauner was immediately cutting off their state grants. No longer would there be money to bury the indigent. Funding for The Autism Program, eliminated. Funding stripped from addiction prevention. Cuts totaling $200 million.

Let Freedom Ring March

Apr 9, 2015

Bells rang out as students made their way from President Abraham Lincoln's home to the Old State Capitol. 

April marks the month that both Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated.

I talked with one of the parent educators from Jefferson Middle School; Monica Walls Butler says it's important for young people to know their history. 

Amanda Vinicky

Gas station owners are worried that lawmakers will pass an increase to the motor fuel tax to bring in more revenue.

David Smith owns gas stations along the Illinois border. He says Illinois' higher taxes cause most drivers to fill up outside of the state.

"At one of our Missouri stations near the border of Missouri and Illinois, we sell for example 170,000 gallons of gas per month," Smith said. "However at our Illinois-based border station just a few miles away on the Illinois side, we only sell about 70,000 gallons per month."

Tune in to this week's version of The Scene - with Scott Faingold: 

  Events discussed this week include:

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Winter can be wicked, but the softer days of spring follow as a comfort.  The hyacinth peeking out of the thawing earth demonstrates that universal truth that joy follows pain, sun follows rain, and some satisfying resolution follows most every difficult experience.  If life teaches us anything, it should be to hope for better days.

Michael Schleuter / schleuterphoto.com

Maggie Duckworth, a resident of St. Louis who has an engineering degree and designs costumes, says ever since she was a kid - she's been fixated on outer space. "I've probably been interested in outer space since my first word, which ... was saying 'home' while pointing up at the stars." Duckworth says her parents regularly exposing her to Star Trek at a young age was also an inspiration. Now, she is one of 100 finalists as part of the Mars One project, which aims to send a group of four people to colonize Mars by 2022.

Pages