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Transportation
9:13 am
Fri May 16, 2014

"Curb Your Car" Next Week

Credit Tejvan Pettinger/flickr

The Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission wants you to leave the car at home next week.  Instead, think about biking, walking, running or using the bus.  

Curb Your Car Week begins Monday and several business are offering incentives. There is also a group ride from Washington Park on Wednesday morning, May 21.  A night ride that goes through downtown is on Saturday May 24.

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Budget FY15
5:56 am
Fri May 16, 2014

House Democrats Pass Spending Plan (Barely)

Illinois is beginning to work on its budget for Fiscal Year 2015.
Credit wnij

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.

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Budget fight
10:59 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Democrats Ask Republicans: "Where's Your Budget Plan?"

Credit 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.

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Statehouse
8:05 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Rating Agencies Not Worried About Pension Hold

Credit 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.                                                  

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Statehouse
7:30 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

State Unemployment Drops To Lowest Since Recession, But Still Behind The Nation

Credit 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. 

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Statehouse
5:24 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Temporary Hike Costing Average Taxpayer $1,100 This Year

Credit 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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Statehouse
10:02 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Lawmaker Calls On Quinn To Nix Private Company That Runs Lottery

Credit Illinois Lottery

A state lawmaker wants Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to fire the company responsible for running the state’s lottery.

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Statehouse
9:57 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Senate President Moves To Save Obama Artifacts For Presidential Library

Credit Illinois Senate

An Illinois Senate panel Wednesday approved a measure to pay tribute to one of the chamber's most distinguished former members.                                         

Barack Obama was once one of 59 state senators. He had a desk. And a chair. And someone had the foresight to put them into storage.

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Education funding
9:52 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

House Panel Approves $13 Billion For K-12 Education

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  An Illinois House panel Wednesday signed off on a budget for the state's public school system.

The $13 billion dollar appropriation is almost a billion more than this year's budget, reversing the state's trend of cutting funding for K -12 education.

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Pensions
9:48 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Univ. Of Illinois Will Try To Retain Faculty Who Retired Under Wrong Pension Interpretation

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Officials at the University of Illinois say they are willing to work to retain faculty who opted to retire early as a result of mistakes in the state's pension overhaul.

It was a small typo, but it turned out to have big consequences for the state's public universities and community colleges.

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Statehouse
9:45 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Lacking 'Black And Brown Children,' IMSA To Lose $1.8m

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia's Aurora district includes the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
Credit ILGA.gov

In the House Democratic budget plan, most state institutions would get level funding or a slight increase.

One of the few cuts is directed at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat whose Aurora district includes IMSA, says the decrease is because the elite high school has failed to meet diversity goals.

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Economy
9:38 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Business Groups Pan Madigan's EDGE Tax Credit Changes

Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Whitley and the Illinois Manufacturers' Association's Mark Denzler, from left, testified against House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan to change EDGE tax credits - changes Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Adam Pollet backs.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  One of Illinois' main tools for attracting and retaining companies in the state would get a revamp under a plan unveiled yesterday by the Speaker of the Illinois House. It drew immediate criticism from business groups.

More than 700 companies have what are known as EDGE tax credits, given in exchange for keeping, or creating new, jobs.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says his aim in changing it is to "insure that he program is being run in a way that benefits both the recipients and the taxpayers of Illinois."

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Statehouse
9:35 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

House Democrats Play Coy On Taxes

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois House Democrats are assembling a budget plan for state government. But a big piece of the puzzle is being left out.

The plan makes it seem obvious House Democrats have heeded Gov. Pat Quinn's call to keep the income tax rate at 5 percent. Except they won't actually say that out loud.

Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago typified the coyness.

"This always comes own to the last couple weeks," he says, "and we have to look at different sources of revenue. We have to look at: Do we add here? Do we cut there?"

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Pensions
4:58 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Hold Placed On Illinois Pension Law

  A judge has blocked Illinois pension overhaul from taking effect next month. It's a temporary victory for government employees who say the law is unconstitutional.

State employees, teachers and university workers were supposed to begin seeing changes to their retirement plans in June. It's part of a sweeping pension overhaul passed late last year.

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Education Journalist Wanted
3:45 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Multimedia Journalist - Education

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

Category: Academic Professional 
Title: Multimedia Journalist-Education at WUIS 
Location: Springfield 
Close Date: 05/30/2014  

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University of Illinois
2:46 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

UI Board Makes No Decision On Former 'Terrorist' Professor

University of Illinois adjunct professor James Kilgore speaks to the U of I's Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday in Springfield. Kilgore's contract was not renewed after his criminal history came to light.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  The teaching career of former radical James Kilgore remains in doubt. He says one of his contracts with the University of Illinois expires Thursday. But the Board of Trustees ended a meeting Wednesday without taking action on his case.

Kilgore was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group best known for kidnapping Patty Hearst in 1974. He was convicted of murder for his role in a bank robbery the group carried out the next year.

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Budget FY15
1:04 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Speaker Madigan's Budget Plan

House Speaker Michael Madigan

Members of the Illinois House are spending Wednesday afternoon in a series of budget hearings. The House Speaker says that's meant to lead the way to an income tax vote.

The hearings all focus on one thing: Illinois' next spending plan.

In particular, one that spends money as if Illinois' income tax rate is still 5-percent -- even though the rate is set to drop halfway through the next fiscal year.

Critics say it's illegal for the House to go forward spending at higher levels, without first voting to extend the higher tax.

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Education Desk
11:05 am
Wed May 14, 2014

WUIS Engage: Chris Farrell Discusses The Impact Of Education On The Economy

Chris Farrell
Credit Marketplace

On May 2, WUIS held an engagement event at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.  It featured Chris Farrell, Economics Editor for the Marketplace programs and Business Week. 

He touched on several education related topics and gave his views. 

"I think education and local economic development are two sides of the same coin," Farrell said. "When someone says what should we do to grow our economy, simply say education."

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Pensions
6:20 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Decision Could Come Today On Pension Delay

The vote in the Illinois House on the 2013 pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A hearing set for this afternoon could determine if some, or even all, of Illinois' new pension law will be suspended.

The pension law is supposed to take effect next month.

The We Are One coalition of unions wants a hold put on the entire law, until a broader lawsuit seeking to have it declared unconstitutional is resolved.

Anders Lindall is a spokesman for AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. He says once someone retires, that can't be reversed.

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Daily Egyptian
8:30 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

House Budget Plan Could Help Save SIU Student Paper

  Southern Illinois University Carbondale's financially-struggling student newspaper would get an infusion of cash under newly introduced legislation.

A spending measure filed in the Illinois House would give The Daily Eqyptian 70-thousand dollars.

The paper had asked for a nine-dollar-per-semester student fee, but the SIU Board of Trustees has not given approval.

The Daily Egyptian's faculty adviser, Eric Fidler says he's still hopeful that will happen this summer. But he says the 70 thousand dollars would be a buffer.

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Regional
12:56 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

As Hy-Vee Opens, City To Focus On Further MacArthur Development

Credit WUIS/Lee Strubinger

Despite the rain Tuesday morning, customers arrived in droves to the unveiling of the the new Springfield Hy-Vee supermarket along MacArthur boulevard. 

The city offered special tax incentives in hopes of spurring growth along MacArthur.

Springfield Alderman Cory Jobe was president of the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association when the idea to bring Hy-Vee about came around.  He says the building brings life to the core of the city.

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Science
6:21 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Raise A Cup To The "Black Drink"

The yaupon holly, or Ilex vomitoria
Credit US Fish and Wildlife Service/public domain

Imagine a caffeinated concoction that, when ingested, resulted in bouts of vomiting.  You might prefer to stick with your gourmet coffee.

But the "Black Drink" as it is known was part of a ritual. The vomiting was done for purity.  It turns out, early societies imbibed.  Even the Cahokia civilization about 1000 years ago.  That's roughly 500 years earlier than records of consumption elsewhere.  Research has found residue in ceremonial cups that confirm the Black Drink was used at Cahokia.

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Blue Laws
6:02 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Buy A Car On Sunday? Dealers Say No

Car dealers could legally operate on Sundays in Illinois until the law was changed in 1982.
Credit Alden Jewell (Flickr/autohistorian)

An Illinois lawmakers is trying to change state law so car dealers can be open on Sundays. But he's facing long odds.

When Sen. Jim Oberweis, from Sugar Grove, learned it was against the law for a car dealer to be open on Sunday, his Republican instincts kicked in.

"Being a business guy, I thought that I would be the hero of the automobile industry by getting this over-reaching government off the backs of car sales," Oberweis said.

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Pensions
12:49 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Deal Reached On University Pensions

Gov. Pat Quinn signs the pension overhaul, known sometimes as Senate Bill 1, into law in December, 2013.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Even as the "We Are One" broad coalition of unions seeks to prevent any of the pension law from taking effect next month, a new agreement would prevent parts of it from being implemented.

It mostly affects university and community college employees nearing the end of their careers.

The deal, between the State Universities Annuitants Association and the attorney general, could put a stop to a surge of retirements at Illinois' public universities.

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Gambling expansion
5:42 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Bob Rita Makes Another Push For Gambling Expansion

Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), worries the Casino Queen in East St. Louis is too close to horse racing track, Fairmont Park, in Collinsville, and thus would exclude Fairmont from slot machines.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

  While Illinois lawmakers continue to debate whether to extend the income tax increase. But that's not the only source of money being considered. Backers of expanding gambling also project the state would get a windfall.

State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) is once again taking a stab at gambling expansion.

He's got two options: Either authorizing a casino for Chicago, or a broader plan that would put casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. Horse race tracks would also be permitted to have slot machines.

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Education Desk
5:10 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Pre-K Teacher Named Educator Of The Year

Dee Dee Duffy
Credit Horace Mann

Dee Dee Duffy has been teaching in District 186 for 25 years.  Monday she was honored as the 2014 Horace Mann Educator of the Year.  Duffy is an Early Start Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the Early Learning Center. 

Also, Nichole Heyen, principal of Lincoln Magnet Middle School, was named Administrator of the Year. She's been in District 186 for 14 years.

Both were honored at a luncheon ceremony. 

The program has been in existence since 1998.  An independent panel makes the selections. 

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Housing
1:56 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Lawmakers Consider Tax Credit For Distressed, Vacant Communities

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Lawmakers are exploring a way to stabilize Illinois communities hit hard by the Great Recession. Advocates say a statewide property tax credit would boost development in blighted areas.

When houses are left vacant, it drives down property values for the entire block. In Cook County alone, there are an estimated 55,000 such vacancies.

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Statehouse
1:45 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

AP: IDOT Hires Had Political Clout

Dozens of state jobs involved in a dispute over whether they should be free of politics were filled by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration with candidates who were politically connected or gave campaign money to the governor's party.  
That's according to an Associated Press review of state documents.  

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Harvest Desk
10:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Chilli Parlor Re-Opens Serving Century Old Recipe

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

A Springfield culinary landmark has re-opened it's doors.  The Dew Chilli parlor was established in 1909, but it closed about 20 years ago.    Mark Roberts is the new owner and a longtime fan.   Lee Strubinger went to the parlor's recent grand opening and he presents this audio postcard:

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Regional
6:00 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Springfield Police Lieutenant Retires Days After Receiving Promotion

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

Earlier this month,  the Springfield Police Department promoted two sergeants to the rank of lieutenant.  One has already retired, able to earn a higher pension because of the promotion.

Under state law, retiring police officers are allowed to collect pension benefits based on rank for their last day of employment.

Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin says a lieutenant retiring at a rank he never served is quote 'offensive.' He says the public doesn't appreciate a "revolving door of promotions right before retirement.”

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